In the heart of the English countyside stands an isolated house. Within this fortress of solitude resides a reclusive writer struggling to meet his latest deadline whilst battling the haunting memories from a troubled past. Relief comes in the form of Maddy an attractive neighbour recently moved into a nearby cottage. Although he is lost briefly in the pleasant distraction of her company, the writer’s mind once more returns to his mission and the ominous Beast in the basement. Trapped, yet still lurking in the shadows of the writer’s every waking moment, the beast threatens to shatter everything he has worked for. But who or what is the Beast? Is it real or a figment of a very fertile imagination? And will the basement door be enough to keep it contained?
Beast in the Basement is a wonderful creepy tale that winds the tension extremely tight culminating in an explosive ending that will certainly make your jaw drop. Jason Arnopp builds the suspense slowly and effectively into his intricate and clever plot to create a spine-tingling story that is well-written and truly entertaining.
All the elements that make a great horror story are present. There’s the large house, the creaky door, the rickety stairs, a scary basement, lack of light at times, shadows and of course the Beast. The Prologue throws the reader into a horrorfying scenario – “I am soaked with blood, rain and what is almost certainly my own urine.” Then, just as the action gets intense Arnopp whips the rug from under us – “The cursor blinks at the top of the empty computer screen”. He continues to make the reader’s head spin as the story unfolds making you unsure at times whether things are dream or reality.
The idea for the book came to Jason some time ago as he explains: “Well, Beast In The Basement is quite an old story of mine. It was originally a 60-minute ‘spec’ script for TV called Happy Ever After.” This should come as no surprise given that Jason’s writing talent extends beyond the printed word. In fact, he produced and wrote the script for horror flick Stormhouse and has written a number of audio books for our very own travelling Time Lord, a childhood ambition achieved it appears: ” I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer. From a very young age, I was inventing my own Doctor Who stories and drawing Doctor Who comic strips in exercise books.” However, his latest book was certainly not inspired by aliens and sonic screwdrivers: “I’ve always been preoccupied with censorship and the scapegoating of artists, though, so that was almost certainly the initial spark.“
The novella is written from the point of view of the main character – the reclusive writer. As I read the book I was completely drawn into his world. The words on the page seem to come straight from the character’s mouth/mind. They are written in a convincing natural style that makes the reader feel they have access to his very thoughts. I could feel the frustration he had when he read through the novel, the stress with the constant messages from his agent and the terrible struggle to repress the nightmare of his past. But there in the background the Beast lurked and I jumped at every shadow, noise and bang- “Three storeys down, in the depths of the house, I could have sworn I heard The Beast gnash its teeth.”
Although a horror story I thought Arnopp created both light and shade in his novella. Maddy’s presence brings a little normality into what is a very strange and fairly depressing existence. Her speech is remarkably opposite in tone and her demeanour is in stark contrast to the writer’s. Maddy’s laid back friendly manner also emphasises the main character’s paranoia and increasing manic behaviour.
The mystery of the Beast will keep you guessing till the end. Jason Arnopp teasingly feeds the reader titbits of information but never enough to reveal the whole story. It is definitely addictive and I dare you to put this book down before you get to the end – I certainly could not.