Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Belial had claimed his first victim.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Doris Meacham is definitely a Mrs Chitter sort of character. She arrives looking somewhat frivolous and abrasive, but leaves accompanied by a sympathetic tear from us readers.
The sewing circle might sneer at her sorrow over the death of her little dog, but how do they (and we) know that that is the only unhappiness Mrs Meacham has suffered since the war began? Perhaps the brutal killing of her pet was the last in a line of unspoken traumas in that lady’s life. In those days and that culture, it was far less likely that a woman might be free to express grief openly, and perhaps her pet was the only companion Mrs Meacham had left in the world. Even if he wasn’t, her pain is completely understandable given the sudden and violent nature of her loss. I, for one, feel sorry for her during the ‘yellow candlewick’ scene, and have no patience left with the vile Ma Stokes.
With that out of the way I suppose we have to take a look at our monster of the week, Belial. Wikipedia names him a figure of malevolence in both Hebrew and Christian texts. Alternatively ‘Beliar’, ‘Baalial’, etc, he is apparently alike in powers to the Biblical Satan, sometimes referred to as Lucifer’s father or accomplice, and referenced in Paradise Lost. Belial’s forte is, as demonstrated in this chapter, the ability to take on any form. I honestly can’t decide how I feel about the use of a Hebrew demon in the context of a pulpy murder scene in which said demon takes on the appearance of the ‘squander bug’ caricature, but it’s certainly a striking decision, and the stuff of a campy 70s b-movie. One can almost see the fake blood spurting in all directions.
Matt’s Thoughts: It may have a cute teddy on the front, but it also has a giant freaking cockroach. For a while there, I thought this might have been a softer Jarvis book, more about atmosphere and history than dark monsters and villains but no – he’s well and truly ramped it up to his familiar level of intensity.
Anyway, I should mention that I got curious about the name Belial as well, because I remembered seeing it in old King James Version Bibles, but I couldn’t remember where. Where you see it is that in various spots in the Bible, there will sometimes be mentions of groups of pagans – or sometimes just one individual – who seeks to lead the true people of God astray. And a phrase keeps appearing ‘sons of Belial’ or ‘son of Belial’ to describe those.
It’s never clear what Belial is in the Bible, but clearly it is some sort of grouping for evil people. So Mr Jarvis’ imaginative take on Belial as the Archduke of Demons – and clearly with shapeshifting ability – is quite clever.
And brutal. Ugh. I hate cockroaches.