This is a book that I had heard a bit about over the years on a couple message boards and it piqued my interest, so when I saw it on sale at Half-Priced Books, I instantly picked it up. I am pleased to report to you that my purchase was well worth it. This review will be a basic plot synopsis with no spoilers, so if you’ve yet to read the book, feel free to read on.
The book takes place mostly in the titular location set in the Romanian alps during 1941. A group of German soldiers have been stationed there to help guard the border, and have taken over the mysterious keep despite the local’s warning that this may not be such a hot idea. They unwittingly unleash an eldritch abomination that takes the life of one of the men each night. Captain Klaus Woermann, thinking that this is the work of guerrelias trying to drive them out, asks for reinforcements to be sent in.
The reinforcements turn out to be an elite SS squad led by Woermann’s old rival, Erich Kaempffer. Woermann fights the war due to patriotism for his country. He enlisted during the first World War and stuck with his duties as a solider, while completely growing more and more sickened by the atrocities commited by the Third Reich. Kaempffer, on the other hand, enjoys his work and is upset to be at the keep, because he wants to work on setting up a death camp in Poland.
More deaths occur at the keep. Eventually the Nazi’s are told of a Jewish scholar who may be of some use as he has studied the keep for years, and thus the invalid Prof. Cuza and his attractive spinster daughter Magda are brought into the keep. Along the same time a mysterious stanger is hellbent on getting to the keep to stop whatever it is that has been let loose. All parties involved are scheming on each other for various reasons: Cuza thinks the creature can be used to destroy the Nazi’s, and wants his daughter to leave the keep immediately to escape the ill-intentions of the German soldiers. Magda wants to take care of her father, as she has for years. Woermann wishes Kaempffer would die so that he can get his men out. Kaempffer refuses to believe the being is supernatural and feels SS intimidation tactics will stop the killings, and hopes it will do so soon so he can run his own personal death camp. The stranger wants to find a way into the keep. And the creature has his own diabolical agenda.
It’s been a long, long while since I read a book where I felt the pages practically turned themselves. I had a blast reading this book, though I felt towards the end it got a bit predictable. However, it’s not journey, not the destination that matters and The Keep keeps the reader on their toes wondering what will happen and what exactly is going on. The nature of the evil being is veiled and hinted at, but it’s scope isn’t truly revealed until the end of the story.
There are some nice Lovecraftian overtones as grimories such as the Necronomicon and Clark Ashton Smith’s addition to the canon The Book of Eibon, both make appearences during the story. Most of us horror fans have seen Evil Dead and The Beyond so we know those two can really make the red spill when read from.
As it turns out, The Keep is the first part in a six part series. I have not yet read the next five entries in The Adversary Cycle, but after liking The Keep so much, I believe I will do just that.
Yes, there is a movie adaptation, and a review of that will come later.
It is not going to be pretty…