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Hopper Coleman’s latest shocker concerns the diabolical Mr. Morgan, whose secret, creepy lair turns out to be something far more to the good people of the remote hamlet of Grand Meadow when local wildlife start preying on them.
At first a few residents are mauled by a bear. Then two couples out on Lawyer’s Creek get eaten by a gator. Then a pack of wolves attack the schoolhouse.
It seems something at the local zoo drove all the animals crazy, causing them to escape and infect; before long every squirrel, bird, dog and fish in town is out for blood.
Exactly what put humans on the menu is never explained; the townspeople are cut off, too busy trying to survive to ask questions.
The dungeon is huge: the Morgan family reside over ancient catacombs nestled in the French Rockies. Mrs. Morgan and the couple’s children (boy Lestir and girl Hari) are unaware of this as are most all of Grand Meadow’s other residents. One day the Morgan patriarch was exploring the cellar and traced the source of a foul smelling draft to a crack in the wall. An ancient hidden door swings open to reveal a labyrinth of possibilities.
Mr. Morgan is a bit of, no, an entire wacko. He doesn’t consider sharing his discovery with anyone, not even his family or the local museum (who might pay handsomely for some of the artifacts found in the ruins), nor his seemingly only friend, Lefty the barber, the only other resident who knows about the catacombs. Exactly how Lefty knows makes for a most interesting second act.
Instead of going public, Morgan instead begins to sweep up and make himself at home: taking his wife and kids on holiday so movers can deliver several truckloads of goodies directly into the basement where no one (else) will be the wiser. Goodies like chains, ropes, shackles, mattresses, lighting, microphones and cameras, computer monitors, knives, fire irons, bags of coal… you get the picture. Real Edgar Allen Toe stuff, all shipped in plain brown boxes and ordered from several different retailers. Whenever he needs something conspicuous delivered, “the best daddy in the world” takes his family on another grand outing.
A torture dungeon sadist at heart, Mr. Morgan has been living it up like some modern day de Sake (with the boxes of home movies to prove it) for years before the animal uprising. The pack of savage beasts make their way across town leaving slaughter in their wake. In no time they reach the small gated community, picking off residents like fruit from a tree. It is then that Morgan must decide whether to expose his secrets and offer his family shelter below their home after it is compromised by a herd of elephants from the zoo. During the chaos a neighbor overhears Morgan explaining to his wife and kids that if they just give him a few minutes to “tidy up first” they can all go down there and wait out the attack in safety. Good old Mr. Morgan wasn’t just all about perversions, luckily: he was also stockpiling food and water. He even put in cable tv!
Soon the nosy neighbor has rallied the other residents into hatching a plan to ensure the safety of as many of them as they see fit to cram into Morgan’s “shelter.” But they’re all in for a surprise when they find themselves in the titular wackjob’s playground wishing they’d remained topside, killer pets be damned.
Turning into a sort of “catacomb invasion” story with a bit of a nature vs. man theme, Mr. Morgan’s Dungeon is great twisted fun, Coleman a pro at these kind of tales. Littered with violence and disturbing imagery, the book, like the author himself, is not for everyone. Coleman’s first big hit, 2011’s Boiling Water, was both popular (selling over one million copies) and panned by critics (with one reviewer calling it “puerile filth; nothing more than adolescent detritus”), affording him a lucrative multi-book deal with Fandom House. His next two novels were successful as well, but it was last year’s A Grave With A View that cemented his place as today’s bestselling thriller writer, selling a reported two thousand million copies in Bosnia alone.
If you enjoy violent, twisted tales filled with despicable characters (who doesn’t?) or if you’re already a Coleman fan then look for his latest wherever fantastical books are sold.