SA Sidor brings us back to that center of horror, Arkham, Massachusetts. In it Lair of the Crystal Fang: An Arkham Horror Novel, another young creature is trying to break free and destroy our world. This time, five residents of Arkham have noticed the danger and have banded together to try to save the city. Andy Van Nortiwck, Jake Williams and Maude Brion have previously faced horrors together. They are only too happy to join Dr. Fern, a local psychologist, and Wendy Adams, a street smart kid, to uncover what threatens Arkham this time. And put an end to it. Find out if they can enter Lair of the Crystal Fang.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Aconyte for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of Lair of the Crystal Fang contains some spoilers!]
Arkham’s dirty underbelly
IN Lair of the Crystal Fang, we explore the confusing, dirty underbelly of Arkham, literally. Most of the story takes place in the sewers beneath the streets of Arkham. The mayor has finally pushed through his Big Drain project, an infrastructure initiative that will update and enlarge the Arkham sewers. But as work progresses on the project, people start to end up dying. The bodies are all found around sewer openings, leading some people to question the safety of the Big Drain project.
Then the workers find something even more amazing. While widening a smaller drain, they encountered a crossing pipe that was not on the map. The workers weren’t too worried about it, the cards they have are so bad they’re almost better off without them. As they begin to remove the pipes, they find a small, natural-looking cave dominated by a large, pink crystal stalactite, which they all begin to call a Fang. No one is sure what it is or how it got there. It does not match any local stones. The mayor just wants to remove it and continue work, but a local geologist insists it stay where it is until they understand it better.
Ace reporter Rex Murphy watches the mayor go down the sewers to investigate the discovery and knows this is not a normal situation. Politicians stay as far away from the mess as they can, so if the mayor went down in the muck, it must be big. He follows the mayor, but before he can do more than see the fang, he slips into the raw sewage and is discovered. The police accompanying the mayor decided that Rex must be the one killing people and leaving them at the sewers. After all, why else would he be down in that disgusting place? They arrest him and claim that the case is solved.
At the station, the police show Rex some evidence in an attempt to force a confession from him. It doesn’t work, but he learns more about “the lamprey,” the name the sewer killer has given himself. When he is finally released, he shares this information with his journalist Andy. Together they form a plan to go back into the sewers and hunt down the lamprey story where it lives.
At the same time that Rex and Andy are chasing their story, Maude Brion is a prisoner at the local sanatorium. The doctors are convinced that she is mentally disturbed because of the stories she tells about giant spiders in the Amazon jungle (they are real, for Maude’s story see Cult of the Spider Queen).
Dragged into a state of constant terror, unable to distinguish reality from fantasy, Maude attacks her original doctor. Afterwards, she is assigned a new one, Dr. Fern. During a hypnosis session, Maude and Dr. Fern a vision that draws Dr. Delve into the occult world that surrounds Arkham.
Dr. Acting on her vision, Fern tracks down Maude’s explorer friend, Jake. She also finds the street urchin Wendy, who was in her visions. Along with Andy, who joins them after he and Rex are attacked in the sewers by the lamprey, these five race to discover what’s really going on with the crystal fang and who is threatening Arkham now.
Lair of the Crystal Fang is a great story with an oversized cast
SA Sidor’s Lair of the Crystal Fang is a great murder mystery with a supernatural twist. I really loved the main story and the five main characters. It was also really cool to delve into the lamprey’s mind and hear their logic before we knew who they were. The only real problem was how many characters to follow. Within the first few chapters, there were already over a dozen different characters that the story followed.
It was unclear who was an actual main character and who would turn out to be unimportant, leaving me with a lot of information to keep track of. Even when a few supporting characters begin to fall by the wayside, more emerge to take their place. Eventually you realize who the important characters are, but the story keeps jumping to follow minor characters.
The biggest downside to having so many different characters is that you don’t form a real connection with them. The story was still engaging and the mystery well laid out, but the emotional investment was lacking. I really enjoy getting emotionally invested in characters. I tear the best stories apart just thinking about what my beloved hero must face. It was missing Lair of the Crystal Fang.
Good end to a good read
Finally, Sidor managed to surprise me with who the lamprey was. Of course, he withheld some important information that would have given me the connection, but all’s fair in romance and mystery novels. I don’t feel that what he held back was unfair because looking back at history, there were enough breadcrumbs left. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a random person and it wasn’t, which was great.
It rarely surprises me and I liked that. It helped make up for the overwhelming cast. Overall, this book is great for anyone who likes the supernatural, anyone who is already a fan of the Arkham Horror series, or anyone who loves murder mysteries.
My rating: 8/10
Lair of the Crystal Fang: An Arkham Horror Novel by SA Sidor is available now at Aconite Books and other booksellers. Do you plan to read it? Let us know Twitter and on The Cosmic Circus Discord! And if you haven’t already, check out our latest Arkham Horror Novel review, In the Coils of the Labyrinth!
Review: In The Coils of the Labyrinth: An Arkham Horror Novel