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Book Review

Spotlight on: To Wake the Dead by Richard Laymon

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Buy To Wake the Dead by Richard Laymon Richard Laymon, To Wake the Dead

This is the most ambitious Richard Laymon novel I've read to date. In the other novels I've encountered (and you can see what those are by visiting my Richard Laymon page), the author has tended to focus on a relatively small cast of characters that we get to really know before he kills most of them. In To Wake the Dead, however, there are several stories running parallel to each other, each with its own cast of characters, giving the novel a similar feel to a Robert Altman film.

The focus of To Wake the Dead is on Amara, an Egyptian mummy brought to a Los Angeles museum, but along the way, we meet a vast array of other individuals, each with their own struggles: Virgina, Ed, and Marco, a trio of caged captives, are held as sex slaves by a mysterious kidnapper who only moves around in the dark. April, a young blind woman, alone in her remote mansion, receives an unexpected, but not unwelcome, visitor.

Concurrently, Susan, the woman in charge of the mummy exhibit, has to deal with unexplained murders surrounding her new acquisition. Her cop boyfriend, Tag, has his own problem in the form of Mabel, a hygienically challenged woman who wants Tag to be her lover. Teenaged Grace, along with her boyfriend and sister, makes her way to Hollywood to be a star. And Imad, a local womanizer, proves to be the source of some surprising information.

Laymon somehow manages to make all the varied plotlines in To Wake the Dead skillfully come together at just the right moments. He doesn't make the obvious choices, and manages to breathe some new life into an idea whose time came and went long ago (and that includes the laughable series of recent movies).

To Wake the Dead has the same flaws of most Richard Laymon novels: a overabundance of breast references, a reliance on implausible plot contrivances based on characters' stupid decisions, and villains that are really more disgusting than they need to be. But, at the same time, it also has that wonderful Laymon charm that keeps you going in spite of these drawbacks.

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