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The Beetle. A Mystery

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,281 Ratings  ·  144 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 04, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic
"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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...more
Jack Tripper
Feb 18, 2016 Jack Tripper rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Review to come, eventually. Damn my new job and all the hours it's taking away from me. I will say that it starts off great. Then it was just long-winded and boring as hell until the end (I know, such great analysis there). Three stars may be too generous.

2.5 Stars
Charlene
First published in 1897, The Beetle is a strange little mystery adventure story. I mistakenly went into it thinking it was a horror or dark fiction tale. And while I guess it could be considered horror, only the very first portion was the least bit scary.

A blend of Isis worship, mystery, Keystone Cop chases, hypnosis, politics, humor and romance, it's difficult to categorize The Beetle. It is well written-it's just all over the place. Even though it wasn't horror, I did enjoy this book-uneven t
...more
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
Thomas Strömquist
DNF at 13%

Impossible to focus on this half incoherent narrative, that may or may not prove to form a story later on... It may very well be me - but I just read 3 brilliant books concurrently and patience with this I don't have at the moment.

"I want to be admitted"

"Then you won't be admitted!"

"I want to see the master"

"Then you won't see the master!"

"I want to see someone in authority"

"Why do you think I have this out-rrrageous accent, you silly king? ... Now go away, or I shall taunt you a seco
...more
Nancy Oakes
The Beetle may not be the greatest book in terms of literary value, but I will say that it is a hell of a lot of fun to read. To me it is the literary equivalent of comfort food, and its Egyptian flavor along with all of its over-the-top moments remind me a lot of the old pulpy horror/gothic books I devoured as a nerdy kid on rainy days.

It seems that no matter where I turn to find a literary review of this novel, everyone wants to compare it to Bram Stoker's Dracula. The two books were publishe
...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
Maureen
Jun 10, 2012 Maureen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
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
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
Kimberly
The Beetle, by Richard Marsh, is one book that I'm having trouble categorizing. Most of the time, I was able to find the situations at least somewhat humorous. As for horror, I really wouldn't characterize it as that, although there was the omnipresent aura of mystery from the very beginning.

Although I absolutely had to see how the book ended, I can honestly say that it's not one that I see myself ever re-reading.

2.5-3 stars.
Jon Recluse
Apr 23, 2016 Jon Recluse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, classics, ha-f-f
Review pending
Molly
Nov 06, 2009 Molly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex
Oct 28, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very entertaining and exciting! Loved the different narrators...the light tone of the book kinda made up for the really creepy and disturbing goings-on...Also--THERE'S A REASON I HATE BUGS!!!
Emily
Nov 15, 2011 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Rebecca McNutt
This classic in Gothic literature wasn't bad, I really enjoyed its mystery and elements of terror. The British setting was also described very vividly.
Alex
Feb 16, 2016 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
1897! Look at that giant bug! Whee!
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.
Anna Kļaviņa
DNF

The first part was really good but the second part was slow and boring.

The story might get more absorbing and I'm somehow reluctantly DNF-ing this book but chapter 16 was the last straw.
Doreen Petersen
Jun 23, 2016 Doreen Petersen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
A weird, twisted but really interesting mystery. I really liked it.
Fishface
A great read -- one of the fundamental novels if you are looking into Gothic horror. Great combination of Victorian stuffiness and sheer weirdness, with a great deal of rushing about in Hansom cabs and knocking on the doors of deserted houses. The version I found to read was supposedly "edited" by Julian Wolfreys, but it is really just annotated and explained to a fare-thee-well, even including footnotes to tell readers what "blimey" means -- the guy must think we're all stupid. At the same time ...more
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
Dfordoom
May 02, 2008 Dfordoom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
J A
Feb 22, 2016 J A rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I was allowed to give a half star, this would have received two and a half stars. I enjoyed large sections of the novel: the moments where characters experience the terror of the eponymous 'Beetle' are some of the most genuinely unnerving in Victorian Gothic fiction; the hypnotism used by the Arabic person to make people his unwilling servants is also expertly done, and captures precisely the sense of mental struggle and fright. Elsewhere, however, the novel suffers from being slightly too cr ...more
Tait
Nov 18, 2011 Tait rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
D.M. Dutcher
May 08, 2012 D.M. Dutcher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Okay but inferior Victorian potboiler with similarities to Dracula. I can see why this is college lit class bait, it uses an unusual structure and is pretty transgressive for its time. It starts with a tramp who one day climbs through a window and is made a captive of an unearthly creature that seems neither man nor woman. He is then sent to steal papers from a certain up and coming politician. When confronted, he only has to utter the words "The Beetle" to send him into blind fear. He escapes, ...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
Laura
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
British politician Paul Lessingham, a handsome man of wealth, talent and ambition, has a strange and disturbing past which threatens to destroy him. Tale of terror starring Robert Holt as Robert Harper; Gerald McDermott as Paul Lessingham and Tracy-Ann Oberman as Dora Grayling.

Marsh's Gothic novel about a fantastical creature was first published in 1897 - the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula, which it outsold six times over after winning popular appeal amongst readers in
...more
Flora
Mar 16, 2009 Flora rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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'The Beetle' - film version? 8 19 Dec 29, 2015 01:41PM  
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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...

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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.” 1 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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