Published in the same year as and initially gaining more popularity than Stoker's Dracula, The Beetle tells the story of a mysterious figure that follows a British politician to London, wreaks havoc and instills fear in the people through its powers of hypnosis and shape-shifting.
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Ripe with melodrama and purple prose, this ripping horror classic from Marsh, first published in 1897, epitomizes the style of the Victorian penny dreadful. Four sections, each narrated by a different character, interlock to relate the tale of an ancient Egyptian entity known as the child of Isis, who has traveled to London to torment Paul Lessingham, a member of Parliament, and his fianc e, Marjorie Lindon, as revenge for an indiscretion Paul committed during his travels in Egypt two decades earlier. Marsh creates an eerie atmosphere by keeping his story's supernaturalism tantalizingly ambiguous; it's never clear whether the occasional transformations of the child of Isis into the insect of the title are genuine or illusory. An overly chatty cast slows the tale's pace to a crawl and their penchant for conveniently fainting or falling into gibbering incoherence during dramatic moments reduces the novel to a clump of sensational set pieces. Though some readers will enjoy this novel's maximalist gothic flourishes, others will find the tale a bit over the top.