Having heard of Lee from fellow horror enthusiasts, I was anxious to dig into the 'Flesh Gothic' platter and find myself whirled off into literary oblivion. From the prologue, which begins with an intriguing mystery surrounding a young pregnant woman being hidden away by a nameless man, to the first chapter leaping unappologetically into a twisted sexual production filled with humilation and unflinching details, I was hooked.
Although the plot isn't propelled by 100 mile an hour action, it still grips the throat, dries the mouth, and tantalizes the morbid senses. The story was cloaked in mystery, even to the point of 'red herrings', with finely chiseled characterization, psychologically- addictive hooks, and in-your-face commentary. It kept me reading, so it did it's job, almost too well. Although the plot itself sounds like an old rehashing from other haunted yarns gone by, (psychics in a haunted mansion? Done before, you say?) Lee puts forth originality by the way of unique twists, strange themes, and an unsettling, uncommon villain.
Characterization in Flesh Gothic was penned by a man knowing how to strut his talents. The main protagonist, Whitmore, is a man with a flair for spewing out comical dialogue without being overdone or unnecessary, someone who investigates with an inteligent mind but not an inflated ego. Cathleen wasn't your run of the mill psychic, carrying around an erotic presence impossible to ignore, whether the reader be male OR female. Adriannes mourning got old at times but this didn't deter from the character or the book, it only made her more convincing. Nyvysk, the man with the rare career and hard- as-hell to pronounce name, stole the show when present. All did their jobs, did them well, and I applaud Lee's efforts.
The horror of Flesh Gothic is instantaneous and revealed from the get-go, yet portions of it are held back for the mystery and maximum effect. Things are always happening, but not at a high-adrenaline pace, but done in a way that makes it feel like it anyway.
Lee writes unobtrusively, letting my mind forget that I am reading, just letting me experience the world he created. The only problem I found was that sometimes, just SOMETIMES, the dialogue seemed a bit unconvincing. He enjoys exclamation marks in his dialogue, a ploy not used often by most writers.
Flesh Gothic is not your everyday haunted house story. It doesn't even focus on the hauntings all that much, if you can even call them 'hauntings', but rather on trying to solve the mystery of the sick, wealthy man Hildreth's ambitions. I won't give more plot details away, but will say that it's not easy to predict what will happen next, and reading to the end is well worth the wait.
The novel isn't squeaky clean; it's filled with raunchy images, explicit sexual scenes, detailed violence and violent after-effects (dead bodies anyone?). Lee is well-known for his graphic stuff.
If I had to voice any other weakness found, it would be with some of the actions characters showed, such as wandering off alone a bit too much. This can be overlooked though, and doesn't mark down the points that much.
Overall I give Flesh Gothic a four point rating. It wasn't easy to decide between four and five points, but the four point rating I'm issuing it speaks of a novel that I will always remember, recommend, and delight in re-reading.