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Warning: If you are easily grossed out, think twice about reading this book. On the other hand, if your idea of a good time includes reading about decaying corpses and (very) bloodthirsty monsters, step into my parlor, said the mosquito to her next victim.
Ashley Reeves is a young journalist who works for a magazine called Missing Link. It's his job to investigate weird sightings of strange animals (among other strange things), even though they usually turn out to be hoaxes. He's not expecting anything different when he gets a letter in the mail from a man named Reginald Mather, who invites him to come see his specimen of the Ganges Red mosquito, claiming it is the only one of its kind. The letter seems genuine, and Ashley is intrigued. A few hairs on his neck do quiver a bit at a couple of things in the letter (why must he come so quickly? Why is he not to tell anyone?), but the story sounds too promising to pass up. He's on his way in hours.
Mather lives on Aries Island, so when Ashley arrives at the nearest train station to his destination, he must rent a boat to get to the island. The man he rents the boat from is an old crab, and the boat itself looks barely seaworthy. He's not a particularly expert boater, which is all the more a problem when a sudden fierce storm whips up as he crosses the lake to the island. He crashes the boat on a rock. It quickly starts to sink, and Ashley has to swim to shore. Almost as soon as he drags himself up on the beach, his cell phone rings. Once. Then it sputters and crackles and dies. Great. Now he has no boat to get home and no way to communicate with anyone off the island. If you think this is the kind of thing that should make him think "Bad omen! Go back!", you're right. But Ashley isn't thinking along those lines. Yet.
Mather turns out to be an odd sort of man. And is he really living alone on the island, as he says? Because as Ashley comes up to the house, he's sure he hears a female voice saying, "He's here!" But no, Mather swears he lives alone. He is a gracious enough host, offering to let Ashley stay the night and preparing some hot tea for him. But he is also strangely reluctant to let Ashley see the Ganges Red, telling him it isn't a good idea to disturb her after she's recently fed. Instead, he suggests that he read Her Story. The book is rather ghastly, featuring a series of stories about a fabled creature called The Devil's Hand. The illustrations feature a giant mosquito, quite large in size, attacking one or more screaming people, including Roman centurions, Saxon Britons, early Europeans, and various other cultures. Ashley can only hope that this Devil's Hand has nothing to do with the Ganges Red.
No such luck.
Over the next few days, Ashley will discover the following things:
- The Ganges Red, or "The Lady", as Mather calls it/her, is a giant mosquito. Her wingspan alone is over eight inches.
- Mather is rather desperate that he not explore the rest of the island or take any pictures
- Mather seemingly has no intention of letting him off the island
- Mather is quite, quite mad
- The Lady is very, very hungry
I'm not kidding here. This book gave me the creeps more than once. Carter doesn't shy away from describing gross and truly horrific events, and sensitive readers should beware. He also does a great job building up the suspense. He's very good at the creepy moment/lull/creepy moment/lull/crescendo method of creating tension. Though at times some of the characterizations and dialog are a little over the top, it can be overlooked. Teens who have an itch to move past R.L. Stine will probably suck ever morsel of bloody horror from this book and savor it to the very last drop.
(Sorry. I couldn't resist.)