Louis Bayard. Roosevelt's Beast. New York: Henry Holt, 2014). 320p. ISBN 978-0-8050-9070-3. $27. Fiction
In March 1914, Theodore Roosevelt and his troubled 24-year-old son Kermit join an expedition to explore the uncharted Rio da Dúvida (the River of Doubt) in Brazil. Guided by Teddy and jungle explorer Cândido Rondon, the company finds progress to be slow, as rapids, falls, whirlpools, and other obstacles bog down the adventurers. When food runs short, Teddy and Kermit violate rules by leaving the river in search of prey. As night falls and the dense jungle closes around them, the two are kidnaped by members of a primitive tribe who refuse to release them until they kill a legendary beast that eviscerates its victims without spilling a drop of blood. Thus begins a descent into malarial delusions and madness as the line between nightmare and reality vanishes. Is the horrific beast they seek a creature of nature—however savage—or a demon who invades souls and devours from within? VERDICT Bayard (The School of Night) describes this skillfully crafted novel as “a psychological fantasy built out of historical events.” His nightmarish tale, reminiscent of Scott Smith’s The Ruins, will appeal to fans of Dean Koontz and all those who like their adventure tinged with horror.