When I saw a promotional ad for The Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea, I purchased it instantly. I cannot resist a beach-themed monster novel. I had not read any of Mr. Shea’s books before, but he had been receiving much praise so I was looking forward to eventually reading it.
The title says it all – although slightly inaccurately - there are monsters (plural) in Montauk, not a single monster. The Montauk monster refers to some local folklore (at least as described in the book – that entire section could be fictitious too. But, I bought it). So, as a reader you’re going into this with the idea that this is a creature feature, a monster novel. Does it work? You bet it does. Mr. Shea, thankfully delivers the goods.
You’ve got these genetically engineered monsters whose bite spreads a 100% fatal virus – that’s if the monsters don’t eat you first. At first there seems to be only a handful, but there a LOT more of them. Victims of the monsters include not just a random selection of undesirables (like the unpleasant characters or TV celebrities), but you’re everyday men, women, and children. Nothing escapes their clutches. The plot is pretty straightforward. The initial attacks are puzzling to authorities, and there is the race against time to figure out what the heck is going on as the community collapses. The monster attacks are vivid and jolting. The gore is in your face, and if a character manages to survive an attack – the author treats you to the death process by the virus. FEMA, the military and other covert government entities arrive to take charge, but many of them are in the dark as to what is going on.
Our heroes are a couple of young police officers who are trying to save their community by taking rather unorthodox courses of action. They are likeable enough, but are rather one-dimensional. That’s okay, though. You’re not reading this for literary-driven characterizations.
Overall, this novel is a blast. I loved it. The story is fast-paced and the plot is gripping. There are a number of twists and turns that are quite creative and I couldn’t turn myself away. You never know who is going to get killed either. The author is quite comfortable knocking off his characters as the plot moves along. That adds to the suspense. The only misstep of the author was when the main characters take time out to have sex in the shower while hundreds of people on the eastern end of Long Island are being eaten and these two have information that could save Montauk. Oh well, if this was the only time I could not suspend my disbelief, then that’s not bad. Kudos, Hunter Shea. I’ll be reading more of your work.