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Murdock's cave is an underground cavern that is a popular tourist destination so much so that they have built a hotel resort above it. Darcy is the new guide and enjoying her job but not the attention from the owner's creepy son.
Something isn't right at the hotel and people are going missing. When the boyfriend of a woman who has gone missing believes she was last at the hotel it starts a chain of events that causes a fire and Darcy and a boat full of tourists to become trapped in the underground cavern.
With no power and no light the people underground panic and come up with different crazy theories as to why they are trapped. Groups begin to form and Darcy and the other guide try their best to calm everyone down.
A group decide to venture further into the caves where there is a rumour of the old owner bricking up an exit years ago. They find the wall but when they break into it they discover they are not alone down in the dark. Darcy and the group must fight to survive while waiting for rescue.
Midnight's lair is one of Richard Laymon's thinner books and it works well being shorter than most. The scene is set up pretty quickly and the action moves at a fast pace.
When reading the book it really reminded me in parts of the movie The Decent. Obviously this book pre dated the film by a good few years but the similarities are striking and when everyone was going on about how original the movie was when it came out I told them to read this book. I wonder if Neil Marshal has read this book.......
The book follows parallel storylines, while we follow the group that is trapped underground we also follow what is happening on the surface and also flashbacks from the owners creepy son who is also trapped with Darcy and the disgusting things he has been getting up to.
The character development is not his best with it being so short but better than a lot of authors who have 600 pages in which to develop them. Darcy is the most well fleshed out character and a good heroine. Like most of his female characters she is strong and independent but still vulnerable to the multitude of psychos, rapists and murderers that inhabit his world. He really does show the worst of human behavior and there are scenes of sexual violence which leave an uneasy taste in your mouth.
The book moves along at a blinding pace and leaves you feeling uneasy waiting to find out what will happen next and the explanation of who is sharing the caves with the tourists is genuinely repulsive.A real "page turner" Not one of his best but still a fantastically scary book.
There are certain touristy things that I have done over the years so many times that I never want to do them again. I remember one year going on no less than 3 separate boat tours of different areas. There are only so many puffins that I can look at before wanting to bring a blunder buster with me on the next trip. Another area that I seem to return to a lot is caves and caverns. Like a boat trip you would think that once you have seen one you have seen them all. Luckily this is not the case as there is something awe inspiring and otherworldly about these underground dens. The most impressive I have visited is Carlsbad Caverns in the USA. This is a huge network of caverns that will make your jaw drop. Unfortunately, the experience was ruined slightly by the McDonald's like restaurant that greeted you at the base of the cave! However, this is nowhere near as bad as the people in 'Midnight's Lair' that had far more to contend with than a few dodgy burgers.
Our tale opens with an ordinary group of tourists as they partake of a boat ride in the underground lake of Mordock's Cave. Their guide is the beautiful Darcy who has only worked the job for two weeks. When the lights suddenly go out the group are left marooned underground with only two flashlights to their name, with the lifts out of order they must find another exit. Perhaps they could break through the wall at one end of the cave that had been sealed up over 50 years ago when someone had fallen to their death? There no chance that a family of deranged, flesh eating people could be hidden there, is there?
'Midnight's Cave' is schlock horror at its very best. The likes of King and Koontz report to write horror novels but large parts of their books are psychological and take a long time to get to the gore. Richard Laymon was an author who believed in the old fashioned horror principles of 70s horror films - more is more. Laymon cuts out the majority of character development and meaningful explanation and instead replaces them with scenes of mayhem and disgusting actions. If you enjoy this type of thing then you are in for a good ride.
When I was younger I used to write short stories about groups of characters slowly being picked off one by one. It turns out that if I had carried on in this fashion I may have become a noted author. Laymon fills 'Midnight's Cave' with 30 characters, but we only get to know about ten of them. The first half of the book let's us get to know the characters and builds the tension before they are led to their fates. We do not get to know loads about any character, except for perhaps Darcy and her mother, but you know enough to care a little. What makes Laymon such a joy to read is that he is not afraid to kill off anyone. This makes the impact of the novel so much better as you are never sure if your favourite will survive.
The horror in the book is top notch as I have come to expect form Laymon, but once again the story is a mixed bag. Personally I found it fantastic, but many people will just find it fantastical. The idea of a family of people trapped underground and forced to go feral is great. Laymon creates a motel owner whose disregard for human life is far scarier than any monster. However, I can easily see that some people will feel that the book is far too unrealistic. You seriously have to suspend your disbelief to get the most from this novel.
There is also another issue with 'Midnight's Lair' that people could easily find off putting and it is a problem that is in almost all of Laymon's books, over sexualisation. I realises that Laymon captures 70s/80s horror in all its glory but he also brings through the misogynistic view of women from the period. Horror films such as 'Friday 13th' or 'Halloween' all seem to have some form of female nudity. This may be titillating on the screen, but in Laymon's novels it's sometimes too much. In 'Midnight's Lair' Laymon has created one particular character who is absolutely vile. You have to be strong stomached to get through some sections.
I imagine that if you are reading a Laymon novel that you are already a fan of the horror genre. If you have yet to explore the dark side I suggest the lighter shades of King or Koontz first. However, if you wish to delve a little deeper you could do worse than 'Midnight's Lair'. Gross, perverted and sick in places, the book is still very fun to read. With a non stop pace and a surprisingly intelligent concept I rate this book pretty highly. It is mindless fun that is definitely for adults, but fun none the less.
Author: Richard Laymon
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
play.com - £5.49
Midnight's Lair is one of Laymon's more shocking books, but also one of his best. It was originally published under the pseudonym of Richard Kelly - a fact that has always puzzled me, since I would be proud to have written it myself. It's the story of a group of sightseers who are taking a tour of a flooded underground cave, when there's a power cut which traps them down there in the dark. From then onwards, all sorts of weird, sick and violent things begin to happen... The novel is fast moving and exciting, and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. However there are a number of scenes in the book which some may consider 'sick' or in bad taste, and the easily offended should perhaps steer clear. For the average horror fan though, there is a huge amount to enjoy in this book.