Lord Hale’s Monster

Tempest and Amanda have been invited to Lord Hale’s 80th birthday party. Although they don’t know him, Lord Hale is familiar with Blue Moon’s reputation and has asked them, along with other paranormal researchers, detectives, and practitioners, to help him survive the weekend, because family legend has it that every other generation of Lord Hales are killed by an ancient bloodthirsty monster on their 80th birthday. He’s the next target — the curse claimed his grandfather — and is vitally interested to not only stave off imminent death, but ultimately defeat the monster and halt its multi-century plague on the men of his family.

They’ve been encouraged to invite as many guests as they wish, so they’re followed by Tempest’s parents, Mary and Michael, Amanda’s former police colleague Patience, and, of course, the swaggering Big Ben. Newlyweds Jagjit and Alice were also invited, but Ben arrives with the news that their car broke down a couple of miles from the grand home, and since the rural location has no cell service, Ben drove to the nearest town to secure them a tow.

Dinner starts off calmly enough — a ham hock terrine served with crusty fresh bread — but mid-course, the lights go out and an orange-eyed, multi-limbed monster appears out of nowhere. Grabbing the nearest diner, the monster declares in its gravelly voice that all of them will die tonight, then drags the guest away.

As the guests try to escape the dining room, they find the door they entered through is locked, but a robed wizard, Caratacus Soulfull, claims to have the power to find hidden exits by using green energy balls of light. The energy balls locate a path of egress behind the fireplace, and although the Blue Moon crew is suspicious, the rest of the guests are happy to decamp, not aware they’re beginning a long and tortuous journey through the bowels of the manor house.

The deeper the dinner guests venture through the passageways, the more obstacles the group encounters while the body count rises, and every time it seems they’ve found a way back to the main floor, another barrier pops up. Lord Hale is acting increasingly erratic, which, combined with the endless sub-basement odyssey, stokes Amanda’s suspicions more by the moment. Even the confirmed paranormal believers, like Frank and the recently returned Dr. Parrish (last spotted in Klowns of Kent), finally agree with her assessment that the perils facing them are manmade rather than supernatural.

But just why were they driven into the darkness, and what’s causing all the noise upstairs?

Steve Higgs continues to produce complex, multi-layered urban mysteries for Tempest and his team to solve, and Lord Hale’s Monster is one of the most frightening, and challenging, so far.