By Chris Priestley
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 14088 11047
Written in 1816, Frankenstein is one of the world's most famous novels. It was written by a 19-year-old English girl called Mary Shelley after she had a nightmare about a scientist creating a living creature.
Shelley's story became even more famous in 1931 when Hollywood made the film version, and it is the creature in this classic movie that everyone now recognises as the definitive Frankenstein's monster. The movie was so successful that a sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, was released in 1935.
Chris Priestley cleverly uses themes from both the original novel and the two movies in his new novel Mr Creecher. Priestley has long been a fan of Frankenstein, and he brings the story to today's teenage readers who might have heard the name and worn the mask at Halloween but haven't read the book.
Priestley's creepy book isn't a re-telling of Mary Shelley's 1816 novel for modern readers; Creecher has very much a story of his own. Priestley is a subtle and effective writer of unsettling stories for young adults, and he's taken on something big and interesting here, resulting in a gripping and unique read.
Shelley skipped over what happened to Frankenstein's monster at the end of her novel, and that is where Priestley begins.
It is January 1, 1818 - New Year's Day - in London. The city is shrouded in dark, freezing fog. A 15-year-old homeless boy called Billy staggers, barely alive, through the streets. He comes across a gigantic body, lying inert in a doorway. Before he can investigate, Billy is attacked by a gang of street boys; but suddenly the giant comes alive and Billy's attackers are frightened off.
Billy himself is terrified by the monstrous man who has come to his assistance, but as he calms down and the man starts to talk, the situation changes. The boy and the giant form a fragile relationship, both intrigued by the other. The giant asks Billy to follow a man called Frankenstein through the streets of London, and report what the man does.
Billy is totally unaware of the connection between the giant and this man called Frankenstein until well into the novel. By then Billy's own story is well and truly caught up with the fate of the creature Frankenstein has created.
Mr Creecher pays homage to one of literature's most enduring creations.
Priestley has written a powerful and compelling story that pulls both the reader and Billy into unknown territory and some very dark events. And at the end of the story Priestley has a surprise up his sleeves that not even the most avid novel reader will have seen coming.
With three volumes of creepy short stories and one full-length novel behind him, Priestley has already built up a loyal fan base with readers who like a good Gothic scare. Mr Creecher will bring yet more fans into the shadowy world of this master storyteller.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com