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The Beetle

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,803 Ratings  ·  192 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 siecle 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 tal
Paperback, 364 pages
Published April 30th 2004 by Broadview Press Inc (first published 1897)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 07, 2012 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."

Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Set in London amidst the Victorian era, The Beetle gives the testimonial account of four characters whose lives intersect as they struggle to solve the mystery behind a terrifying creature – a gruesome beetle originating from Egyptian lore – sent to enact revenge on a British politician.

As a gothic novel, The Beetle’s claim to fame is that it was published in 1897 – the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula a
Jack Tripper
Feb 15, 2016 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
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
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
La historia se abre con un hombre que está pasando una mala racha e intenta entrar en un albergue. Al no dejarle pasar, este personaje, deambulando por la calle, da con una casa que tiene una ventana abierta. Como parece que la casa esté sin habitar, se cuela por la ventana. Pero cuál será su sorpresa cuando se encuentre con un extraño hombre, aunque a veces parece una mujer. Esta es la típica novela en la que mejor no contar demasiado, ya que es un placer ir descubriendo lo que acontece según s ...more
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
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

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
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
Apr 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 04, 2011 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
Nov 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
José Nebreda
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una historia gótico-victoriana muy entretenida. Lluvia, brumas, un Londres desangelado habitado por políticos, cinetíficos inventores, damas enamoradas en apuros, caballeros enamorados también en apuros, cocheros, desempleados, suburbios devastados por la especulación, viejas cotillas y un malo oriental muy malo, muy oriental y muy vengativo. Hay capítulos magníficos (desde mi punto de vista, sobre todo los del científico) y deliciosamente divertidos. Una sorpresa inesperada que recomiendo a los ...more
      ""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 ...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.
May 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Probably the most interesting thing I can say about this book was that it was published in 1897, the same year as Stoker’s Dracula and was initially a much better seller. Though I think in the end, the good Count has had the last laugh given that his book can be found in nearly every bookstore and library (not to mention the countless film adaptations) whereas The Beetle is one of those books you most likely would need to special order.

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for years. I picked
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a weird, fun book this is! It's a bit of a combination of horror, mystery, and Victorian Sensation novel.

Here's what Wikipedia says about it:
"The Beetle (or The Beetle: A Mystery) is an 1897 horror novel by the British writer Richard Marsh, in which a polymorphous Ancient Egyptian entity seeks revenge on a British Member of Parliament. It initially out-sold Bram Stoker's similar horror story Dracula, which appeared the same year."

It's told in four parts, each part narrated by a different c
Anna Kļaviņa

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.
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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!!!
Oct 10, 2017 marked it as to-read
Shelves: reviewed
Putting this one aside, for now. I have no time to read it!
James Hold
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is hard to know what to make of this novel. It is good and creepy, at times displaying bits of humor, but the major characters are vain and unlikable. The sole sympathetic person is Holt, who thru no fault of his own, falls victim to the Beetle and suffers unjustly. Not that anyone really cares. The other characters are Lessington, a smug politician who talks in circles & never says anything; Atherton, self-pitying, jealous, & callous, who invents weapons for chemical warfare, thought ...more
Nov 15, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
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
Apr 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Stephen Collins
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this in Second Hand shop it is classic Horror but unlike Dracula or Frankenstein this not well known .Which a great shame because it's every bit as good & certainly better than Phantom of The Opera.
One not to be missed if can find it.
Doreen Petersen
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
A weird, twisted but really interesting mystery. I really liked it.
May 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
The novel is a wonderfully violent, transgressive, and phantasmagorical ride. I'm amused that some reviewers find its depiction of gender and race offensive. Imagine, Victorian attitudes in a Victorian novel. "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" And in fact, Sarah Grand's New Victorian Woman is on prominent display here as well as an orientalism that is much more sly and knowing than later works such as Sax Rohmer's.

Iami Menotu
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Totally caught unawares opening. Victorian England ancient Egyptian cult fantasy romance adventure with a hilarious style. Page turning pace, drama in every chapter. Good chapter titles. Superficial. Another 'moonstone' like novel but sweetly short.
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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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