cover image The Mountain King

The Mountain King

Rick Hautala. I D I Publications, $50 (276pp) ISBN 978-1-881475-16-3

Even a monster of such legendary stature as Bigfoot isn't big enough to carry Hautala's routine pursuit-and-capture scenario very far. The tale begins promisingly, with a riveting scene atop Mount Agiochook in Maine: Mark Newman watches helplessly as his friend Phil Sawyer is plucked from a ravine by a Sasquatch. Mark can't get any friends back in town to believe what he says he saw; moreover, he becomes the prime suspect in Mark's disappearance and, later, in the bestial murder of his wife's lover. In this marked departure from his usual tales of ghostly terror, Hautala (Beyond the Shroud) shows a deft hand for orchestrating action and suspense, making Mark the object of two manhunts--by the townspeople and by the monster--when he returns to the mountain to search for Phil. After a few close scrapes, though, the potential for Mark to do anything but play hide-and-seek with his pursuers is exhausted, and Hautala resorts to obvious plot stretchers: characters fainting dead away at the end of chapters, sudden nocturnal forays into town by creatures that have kept their distance from humans for centuries and the gruesome demises of victims who exist solely to prolong the story with their death throes. Although designed to deliver the sort of thrills that would make anyone squeamish about being alone in the woods, this novel ultimately settles for the guilty pleasures of its villains' tabloid infamy. (Sept.)