Jesse Petersen’s “Monsters In Your Neighborhood”

Monsters In Your Neighborhood is Jesse Petersen’s sequel to Club Monstrosity. In Club Monstrosity, we met a collection of Manhattan monsters. Swamp Thing, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Blob, the Invisible Man, a mummy, a vampire, and Alec, the obligatory handsome werewolf. The surviving crew from the first novel is back, with the addition of Patrick, a sewer-dwelling chthulu lord, and the conspicuous absence of Mr Hyde, who’s disappeared to pursue his base impulses without Dr. Jekyll’s restraining hand.

Protagonist Natalie Grey is a modern Prometheus, a creature constructed from disparate “donor” body parts. (She’s quick to remind others that Frankenstein is the scientist’s name, not the monster’s, admitting an annoyance than many classic horror fans share.) Natalie’s a sweet girl with Hot Werewolf boyfriend and a fulltime job at the morgue, and Petersen stays true in her second novel, never letting Natalie become a sexy Halloween-costume version of the horror creature.

This sequel includes some of the same occasionally clunky plot exposition of the first novel. Information the reader needs is awkwardly inserted into a character’s mouth. “Once I sorted through his hoarding and you broke the encryption he used, Blob kept pretty good records,” Natalie tells Alec at one point. Amateurish exposition unpleasantly reminds readers that this is a novel, and not a magical peek into an awesome world of monster-inhabited Manhattan.

  Monsters In Your Neighborhood opens with the Van Helsing family declaring war on the monsters, just as promised at the end of Club Monstrosity. The Van Helsing’s hatred of the monsters has turned from the pitchforks and torches of medieval Europe into a social media smear campaign in modern-day New York. It’s a surprising choice — after much of the first book is spent describing the monsters’ difficulties in blending and hiding, it seems underwhelming that the monsters’ deadliest enemy hatches a dastardly plot designed to force the monsters to stay hidden. But ignore that bit of awkwardness for more of Petersen’s horror-humor blend and more interactions with the zany yet believable characters from the first book.

 Kai and Rehu’s off-again, on-again eternal mummy romance gets more attention, and the soap opera intensifies with another eternity curse and a few more near-death dangers. Linda falls prey to a manipulative boyfriend, a plotline that plays on Manhattan dating cliches and cleverly adds ghoulish overtones. Natalie discovers that she’s not the only creature Dr. Frankenstein created — with various degrees of success — and let loose on the world. The monsters are not exactly comfortable in the world of social media and internet stardom, but they’re going to have to be.

 This quick read sets humorous horror in Manhattan, blending centuries of blood feud with Twitter trends. Well worth reading for engaging characters in a world of horror and humor.

This review is based on an eARC from the publisher, although that never stops me from snarking about bad books. This review originally appeared in the Halloween issue of Monsters After Midnight.

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