The Beetle. A Mystery
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The Beetle. A Mystery

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  752 ratings  ·  100 reviews
The Beetle (1897) tells the story of a fantastical creature, "born of neither god nor man," with supernatural and hypnotic powers, who stalks British politician Paul Lessingham through fin de siècle London in search of vengeance for the defilement of a sacred tomb in Egypt. In imitation of various popular fiction genres of the late nineteenth century, Marsh unfolds a tale...more
Published (first published 1897)
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Jeffrey Keeten
"A face looked into mine, and, in front of me, were those dreadful eyes. Then, whether I was dead or living, I said to myself that this could be nothing human,--nothing fashioned in God's image could wear such a shape as that. Fingers were pressed into my cheeks, they were thrust into my mouth, they touched my staring eyes, shut my eyelids, then opened them again, and--horror of horrors!--the blubber lips were pressed to mine--the soul of something evil entered into me in the guise of a kiss."

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Amy Sturgis
The Beetle was published in the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), and there are many aspects of the two gothic novels that are similar: the multiple narrators, the exotic and mysterious supernatural threat, the remarkable sense of place. The Beetle initially was the more popular novel, and I can appreciate its appeal. It's got a little bit of everything sensational, from orgies, shape shifters, and human sacrifice to cross-dressing, hypnotized victims, Isis worship, and dead bodies in d...more
Stela

It was a pleasant surprise, this book. Very readable in a totally unpretentious way, a typical Victorian gothic story, which seems to have been more successful than Dracula at its apparition (both were published the same year) but was eclipsed by the latter in time, unduly, I’d say.

There is nothing really extraordinary in its structure, which resembles Dracula’s and many other novels’ of the nineteenth century – with its several narrative voices that intend to increase the contrast between real...more
Jason Hyde
So far, so splendid.

The Beetle was first published in 1897, the same year as Dracula, which it outsold consistently for the next 25 years or so, until the Hamilton Deane play revived interest in Stoker's book and made the Count the cultural icon he is today, while Marsh's book fell into undeserved obscurity.

There are a lot of similarities between the two, from the shifting narrators (admittedly done better and with greater complexity in Dracula) to their stories, both of which involve sinister f...more
Maureen
once i realized that the beetle's author, richard marsh (pseudonym for richard bernard heldmann), was the grandfather of one of my favourite writers, robert aickman, i was very excited to read it, and it is clear that a talent for horror was passed down the generations. the novel was published in 1897, just prior to bram stoker's dracula, and i'd say the rather more engaging novel of the two.

horror stories quite often depend on the idea that none of us are safe from random chance. any innocent...more
Kay
""A face looked into mine, and, in front of me, were those dreadful eyes. Then, whether I was dead or living, I said to myself that this could be nothing human, -nothing fashioned in God's image could wear such a shape as that. Fingers were pressed into my cheeks, they were thrust into my mouth, they touched my staring eyes, shut my eyelids, then opened them again, and-horror of horrors!-the blubber lips were pressed to mine-the soul of something evil entered into me in the guise of a kiss."

Pub...more
Hesper
This sounded so tremendous, and then it turned out to be your standard Victorian Orientalist hissy fit with a healthy side of period-appropriate sexism. Yay.

In fairness, the first part is elegantly creepy, so that alone is worth a read. However, that momentum is simply not sustained throughout, in spite of some snappy dialogue here and there. The book fails as a weird tale but succeeds as a social document of its era's anxieties regarding gender roles and imperialist attitudes.

Except that's not...more
Emily
I read "The Beetle," by Richard Marsh as part of a literature theory class which sought to apply the theories we learned to different sections of the novel. Because I read the novel with this frame of mind, I feel as though I read into the character's actions and the diction much more than I typically would. The reason I enjoyed this book was because it is one the first times vampires are explored in literature (excluding Dracula). The novel, although not written from a modern perspective, actua...more
Molly
Everyone should read this. It was released the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula and was actually more popular at the time, but has since fallen into obscurity. I think it's even better than Dracula and definitely twice as weird, a genre-spanning supernatural romp that draws from Dickens, Conan Doyle, Victorian romance, and weird scientist fiction and involves cross-dressing, sex cults, and just about everything else. Make sure if you get the Broadview edition to not read the footnotes the firs...more
Tait
Published in 1897, the same year as "Dracula," Richard Marsh's imperial gothic novel, "The Beetle," outsold Stoker's vampire tale for a quarter of a century before, oddly, falling out of print.

Telling the story of a fantastic creature with hypnotic powers who stalks a British politician through fin de siècle London in revenge for defiling an Egyptian cult to Isis, this book not only presents a radically critical stance on the failures of late 19th century imperialism, but it does so with an act...more
Dfordoom
Richard Marsh’s The Beetle is certainly one very bizarre and outrageous book. It’s included in Victorian Villainies, which includes four Victorian mysteries, elected by Graham Greene and his brother Hugh. It’s actually a short novel. Although it’s a mystery it contains very definite elements of the gothic, it involves supernatural or apparently supernatural events, and there’s some horror. It was written in 1897, and it highlights some of the obsessions of that time period. Hypnotism plays a maj...more
Charles
A fun, fast-paced read through the fascinating imagination of Richard Marsh in fin de siecle Victorian England, this work is marred mostly for the expected reasons - sexism, racism, imperialism, and the interesting female character loses narrative agency after successfully fighting to have a place in the adventure. This tale has a lot in common in terms of historical moment and readership with Dracula, its at the time less popular but more lasting contemporary, but has more interesting character...more
Flora
A very curious novel, nowadays perhaps more interesting for the fin-de-siecle attitudes to race, gender and sexuality it depicts than for the (not a little ludicrous) plot.

It's a period piece more than anything else. Imperial England (portrayed by the white, virginal woman - who also happens to be a New Woman) is under threat from an 'Oriental', sexually ambiguous (and sexually threatening)Other and can only be defended by the honorable polititian (yes, you heard that right) Paul Lessingham. The...more
Tim Prasil
Apparently, this book was in competition with Bram Stoker's Dracula, which came out the same year and shares some traits (e.g., an attack in England by a foreign, ancient monster and a narrator perspective from multiple points-of-view).

The basic idea/monster is interesting: a shape-shifting, gender-bending creature whose motive is never entirely understood. It's often interesting, even eyebrow-raising. The ending, though, suggests Marsh might have been in a rush or just not sure of what should h...more
Grace Harwood
I loved this Victorian mystery story from virtually the same time of publication as Stoker's Dracula. In fact, The Beetle apparently outsold Dracula initially, but Stoker's work won in the overall popularity contest and The Beetle fell largely from sight. I had never heard of Marsh's work before but apparently he was a prolific author and there are lots and lots of free kindle works of his out there - some of which I have downloaded and shall be reading.

This book tells the story of a mysterious...more
J A
If I was allowed to give a half star, this would have received two and a half stars. I enjoyed large sections of the text: the moments where characters experience the terror of the eponymous 'Beetle' are some of the most genuinely unnerving in Victorian Gothic fiction; the hypnotism that the Arabian person uses to make people his unwilling servants is also expertly done, and captures precisely the sense of mental struggle and fright. Elsewhere the text suffers from being slightly too cryptic abo...more
Sylvester
Some lovely flesh-crawling stuff in here. I was looking for "Curios", but came across this on the way. Apparently "The Beetle" was more popular than "Dracula" back in the day. I can see why. The first few chapters were fabulous, hooked me good and fast, and the story kept on from there - the different narrators bringing various points of view and keeping the story fresh. It was fun - eerie fun! (Loved the beetle carpet.)I had a horror of beetles when I was a kid, so I *GOT* this book.
Eric Orchard
Begins as a creepy, gothic story but changes into an adventure story. Has a wonderfully strong female character, which is refreshing for the time. Maybe the most surprising aspect of the novel is the mercurial portrayal of gender.
Alexa Dooseman
May 16, 2007 Alexa Dooseman rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Imperialist Enthusiasts
Although I believe Marsh's writing to be completely out of control, this book taps into the Victorian subconscious in an extremely effortless way. The subconscious just happens to be completely terrifying - and terrified.
Sercan Çelik
yok ya devam etmek gelmedi içimden kitabın güzelleşeceği de yok zaten
Randolph Carter
Strange little horror that starts out truly creepy but unfortunately devolves into a Victorian chase-about with the evil "Harab" racing about London and southern Britain with an enormous bundle on his head and two hypnotized victims in tow (I'm not exaggerating). Full of the wonderful gender and racial stereotypes that make this sort of fiction so much fun.

The beginning is so bizarre you feel like this has to be great. In fact the entire Holt narrative is exquisitely weird. It is pretty obvious...more
Mel
The Beetle was released the same year as Dracula and is a supernatural thriller set in London. It is quite unlike most Victorian fiction that I've read. The characters are a very interesting bunch, the homeless ex-clerk on the verge of starvation, trying to get into the workhouse and being rejected, the up and coming star of British Politics and an inventor who is currently working on ways of killing whole armies with a single gas attack, and likes to practice showing off how lethal his inventio...more
Koen Crolla
The problem with the great classics (particularly those written in the 19th century) is that many of them owe their continued popularity to the fact that people tend to confuse archaic vocabularies with erudition, and therefore tend to think more highly of books just because they're old. This is certainly the case with Bram Stoker's Dracula, which came out in the same year as The Beetle (and was initially less popular, as people are fond of pointing out), and can be credited for its influence, b...more
The Thousander Club
Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts . . .

"The Beetle is an exceptionally strange book; at least, it is for a while. As you continue to read, the weird and bizarre feeling diminishes as you learn more about the 'beetle' and the various odd occurrences surrounding its presence. Yet, when the book finishes, you are still left with very little information regarding what it all means; in fact, the ending of the book is, in my opinion, a total let down and a sad disappointment.

I heard about The Beetle f...more
Chrissy Oropeza
The Beetle by Richard Marsh is a fiction piece that centers around an oriental figure that transforms into a Beetle and haunts a great politician of the time, Paul Lessingham. The story is told by four narrators, separating the novel into four sections. The first by Robert Holt, a man taken under the spell of the Beetle and forced into burglary. The second by Sydney Atherton, a scientist of the time who is intertwined with characters affected by the Beetle. The third by Majorie Lindon, the betro...more
Brandi
I found Marsh's "The Beetle" to be a difficult read for a few reasons. I appreciate the way he creatively wrote from the perspective of three different characters throughout the novel, but I also found it weakened the pace. I enjoyed hearing Mr. Holt, Mr. Atherton, and Mrs. Lindon's internal and external struggles as they united against their shared enemy; but, it made the book a dull read because the same events were being revisited and described in exactly the same manner. If the descriptions...more
Asya Fergiani
This was a surprising required reading for a Lit theory course I took a couple of semesters ago. Marsh creatively weaves the frightful tale of the Beetle through the first person recollections of the main characters by writing each chapter from a different characters point of view. This was an amazingly useful book to apply different literary theories to the textual analysis. Marsh utilizes fear of foreigners as he builds the terrifying persona of the Beetle as an ancient practitioner of a long...more
Christey Foster
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth Buckeye
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Lizann Dennis
This story tells the tale of a legendary creature that is comparable to Frankenstein. The persons of this story tell there tale of some ancient evil that is haunting each of there lives in a very unique manner creating all kinds of mischief and seeking each of them out for its own purpose. What is very interesting is that it is given in detail from the perspectives of not one, not two, but four different persons. Each individual overlapping where the other left off so that a whole story is told...more
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'The Beetle' - film version? 7 11 Nov 02, 2013 07:36PM  
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Richard Marsh (October 12, 1857–August 9, 1915) was the pseudonym of the British author born Richard Bernard Heldmann. He is best known for his supernatural thriller The Beetle: A Mystery, which was published in the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula and was initially even more popular. The Beetle remained in print until 1960, and was subsequently resurrected in 2004 and 2007. Heldman was educated...more
More about Richard Marsh...
Curios: Some Strange Adventures of Two Bachelors Between the Dark and the Daylight The Joss: A Reversion The Goddess: A Demon The Seen And The Unseen

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“I turned round, mechanically, like an automaton. Such passivity was worse than undignified, it was galling; I knew that well. I resented it with secret rage. But in that room, in that presence, I was invertebrate.” 2 likes
“Then this travesty of manhood reascended to his feet, and said, whether speaking to me or to himself I could not tell,” 1 likes
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