Thursday, December 15, 2011

59. The Folly by David Anne

My copy does not have the yellow graphic on it.
I stumbled upon this book in a big ripped open garbage bag of books in my own back alley.  At first, I thought I had stumbled upon the mythical motherlode.  They were all paperbacks, all in read but decent condition and looked to be from the time period that I am interested in.  But as I started to root around, I saw sadly that whoever had owned these books had the worst taste.  It was all that late 70s, early 80s garbage like Lawrence Sanders.  Ugh.  I did manage to salvage an Ed McBain and this british horror novel which looked promising.

According to the inside cover, it is David Anne's second novel and his first was a best-seller.  The cover I got off the net here also suggests that The Folly was also a best-seller.  I find it a bit hard to believe.  This book is not terrible, but it's pretty bad, awkardly and obviously structured without any real suspense.  It does have a few moments and ideas of horror that are okay, but otherwise it feels like the book equivalent of the TV movie of the week.

It takes place in the countryside and the events surrounding Sir Mark Hatrell's lands and the ancient tower called the Folly.  People in the surrounding countryside are getting savagely attacked and eaten by some creatures.  [spoiler here] It turns out that sir Mark, with a crazed scientist he hired, have turned the Folly into a secret lab and are experimenting with rabbits and myxomatosis.  I guess that was a real virus that killed tons of rabbits in the english countryside.  Their goal is to get rid of rabbits, which eat the crops, once and for all.  To do this, they need to create a rabbit that is immune to the disease (yes, this makes no sense and doesn't in the book).  They end up creating giant carnivorous rabbits.  We get lots of semi-gruesome eatings of various people, an intrepid journalist who is having an affair with sir Mark's wife (and an even more convoluted backstory involving sir Mark's first wife, whom he stole from the journalist then turned into a junkie—I guess to give the journalist some more motivation but it really has little role in the book) and a small cast of other characters, including a police sergeant and a gamekeeper.

When the gamekeeper was first introduced early in the book (he is resistant to Sir Mark's aggressive plans to modernize his farms), I had high hopes that he might be the protagonist.  Unfortunately, he ends up being a secondary character.  Even worse, he makes a stupid blunder that is clearly put in place to create some action.  He and the journalist hide out in a blind with a recently killed lamb to attract the rabbits.  Their plan succeeds and they finally observe the rabbits in action, but when they go out to inspect the shredded carcass, the gamekeeper trips and shoots the journalist in the leg!  This is an obvious device to get the rabbits to come back (they are attracted by the smell of blood) so we get an action scene.  So retarded. What kind of gamekeeper would ever trip in a hole in a site they had carefully prepared and even worse would have their gun unbroken or the safety off so they would shoot a compatriot in the leg.  This scene offended my sensibilities to the point that I almost stopped reading the book.  If you can't write a thriller with everybody being efficient, just don't bother, okay.


Nick Jones (Louis XIV, the Sun King) said...

Myxomatosis is still around over here in the UK; I think it was deliberately spread by some farmers, as rabbits are seen as a pest by some. I saw a rabbit with the disease last year, hopping around in circles, blind and distressed. Not nice – and worse, a dog came along and killed the thing! A memorable walk along the Downs, that one, for all the wrong reasons.

This book, however, sounds like a stinker!

OlmanFeelyus said...

That actually reminds me that one solid part of the book is a very similar description of a rabbit to the one you just put in your comment. It sounds like this disease caused a lot of pain for people in the countryside, worse that it was something man-made. This is a great jumping off point for a horror story. Unfortunately, David Anne makes a botch of it.

And that does sound disturbing to see. Ugh. Poor little rabbits. Probably for the best, though, that the dog put it out of its misery. Hard to get those kinds of memories out of one's head.

Nick Jones (Louis XIV, the Sun King) said...

"Put it out of its misery" was precisely the dog owner's comment. And I guess she had a point. Even so, it was kind of gruesome – I didn't mind it so much, but my other half was traumatised. Later on the same walk, she ended up in tears, although I suspect that was more due to my extending the walk beyond the promised "couple of hours, a gentle ramble" to a five-hour near-marathon.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Ha ha, I understand that situation all too well, my friend.