The Nature of Monsters by Clare Clark

If Charles Dickens had somehow taken a bad acid trip, he may have brought forth a work of this luminous, nightmarish misery and populated it with villainous characters of this kind of relentless brutality. Dickens could paint a terrifying picture in shades of Victorian grime; Clare Clark brings a more explicit, florid and raw set of colors to The Nature of Monsters.
Brutality is joined with religion and feeds on the terror of shame, guilt and punishment; stubborn superstition is joined with wrong-headed pseudo-science.
This is Gothic horror, and there is an unwavering darkness about this story, but the skill of the author brings a glimmer of promise that keeps me reading. It may be simply that it is inconceivable to me that this tale not resolve into some kind of good for someone of the wretched folks found here. There are intriguing contradictions in the characters that hint at some possibility of redemption or hope, and there are the hints that some good may just appear through a crack in the hard shells of their brutalized personalities. This keeps me reading, too.
Clare Clark has a fine sense of the darkness of this time and place. Her first novel (that takes place in large part in and about the sewer system beneath this same city of London) demonstrates her conjurer’s skill at bringing this realm to life. I remember being startled at its title, The Big Stink. I also remember how I was compelled to keep turning the pages.
Finally, there is a startling plot twist that comes just at the end of The Nature of Monsters that perfectly elucidates the title of the book. Watch out for the monsters when you start this one.


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