Book Review: Return of the Mothman by Michael Knost

This book had been on my “wish list” for several years, but I finally decided to buy it for myself. I love the movie The Mothman Prophesies, (I lost the DVD when I moved!) simply because I love the mystery surrounding the legend of the Mothman. I’ll admit I’ve watched various documentaries on the phenomenon, each one examining different histories and possible explanations behind the mysterious being. I was excited to read another take on the monster.

For those of you who don’t know, the “Mothman” is a creature reported at the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia in the 1960s. The figure was reported to have large wings (like a moth) and glowing red eyes. It was seen by many people during the span of a year or two, and they all described it as a man-like moth or like a large bird. The sightings are linked to the collapse of a nearby bridge, which killed several dozen people (and supposedly the Mothman has not been seen since that). If you are interested, you can Google the term. There are dozens of conspiracy theories and works inspired by these sightings, and it has been elevated to an urban legend, with statues and festivals in its honor.

Return of the Mothman is a fictional account that follows a West Virginia native, Ted, who is drawn back home after learning that his grandmother is sick with terminal cancer. The first phone call he receives has this weird static and a voice informing him that his grandmother is in trouble. I enjoyed the creepy suspense of the phone call, which repeats several times throughout the novel.

I don’t want to spoil anything about Knost’s interpretation of the creature. I will say, for a fan of the Mothman mythos, it was a fast read, and I enjoyed being taken into West Virginia, being exposed to a character who has a long history with West Virginia (and already tried to escape). I enjoyed the creepy moments of the book and even wish there were more of them. In fact, I wish the book were a bit longer to allow for more depth to be added regarding the mystery of the situation. I especially liked being taken into the claustrophobic coal mines and would have liked the pace to slow once or twice to allow me to linger there and feel the terror building.

Although I did wish for more moments of creepiness, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the characters. There was more to this novel than just “hack and slash” horror, and each character had a back story. In many ways, Ted has returned to his home town to slay his demons—both literally and metaphorically, and I appreciate the depth the author put into the characters’ back stories and motivations. Because of the effort put into characterization, I feel that I could recommend this book to general readers as well as horror lovers. It wasn’t super gory or “can’t go to sleep” creepy, though it did contain plenty of suspense and horror, so I could actually recommend it to my friends who are adverse to horror novels. I, on the other hand, like things very dark, and I could have gone darker.

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