Paris, France, is known as the City of Lights, a metropolis renowned for romance and beauty. Beneath the bustling streets and cafés, however, exists The Catacombs, a labyrinth of crumbling tunnels home to six million dead.
When a video camera containing mysterious footage is discovered deep within their depths, a group of friends venture into the tunnels to investigate. But what starts out as a lighthearted adventure takes a turn for the worse when they reach their destination-and stumble upon the evil lurking there.
Plot: Bates pours his expertise into crafting horrific and gory tales of waking nightmares into this second installment in his World’s Scariest Places series. The plot unwinds with plenty of ghoulish and gut-wrenching twists and turns, as well as foreshadowing and references to important clues.
Prose: Bates’s naturally-flowing prose builds upon a solid foundation of readers’ natural and preconceived fears, superstition, and paranoia to create suspense and a truly thrilling and chilling horror read.
Originality: With a shout-out to Stephen King, Bates’s series seems to draw inspiration from other contemporary classics such as the Final Destination film series and the American Horror Story anthology.
Character Development: Despite a small cast of characters in a small, confined setting, Bates infuses his players with unique and memorable personalities, extensive backstories, and convoluted relationships. Readers will get a morbid thrill out of questioning how reliable the narrator really is, and who should be trusted (or not trusted) throughout the course of the novel.
Blurb: Voracious readers of horror will delightfully consume the contents of Bates’s World's Scariest Places books, especially this twisted installment that takes place in the hellish depths of the Parisian catacombs.
Date Submitted: August 31, 2017
Some books use different approaches to characterization as their 'hook' and others have a twist to their plot, but few sport the attraction of The Catacombs, a novel in 'The World's Scariest Places' series, set in the catacombs of Paris. Why should the setting be such a draw? Because in creating a story that revolves strongly upon a sense of place (and an unusual place, at that), it succeeds in making a horror story like none other.
There really could be no better place for horror than the Catacombs, when you think about it: an ancient burial place for the dead, they hold antique mysteries and a foreboding reputation as "the world's largest grave". What better place to discover something rotten? What better locale in which to expose a video camera with mysterious footage; and what other option is there than to investigate?
A group of lighthearted friends with a thirst for uncommon adventure decide to embark on some personal problem-solving of their own and find themselves (predictably) buried in more than they bargained for inThe Catacombs.
Up until now, everything's somewhat predictable. The horror stage is set: so what else is new? Plenty, even if you're a horror genre enthusiast.
For one thing, the Catacombs are almost an initiation rite among this group: a place where former identities are set aside and new possibilities emerge: "In the catacombs, the above world does not exist. We do not speak of it. You are free of your old life, free to reinvent yourself any way you like. With that new identity comes a new name.” It's ritual at its best, it thrives on unpredictability and challenges, and it's about to get a lot more deadly than anyone in the group anticipated.
The first-person story of growth and challenge fuels the underlying horror in The Catacombs: readers live every footstep, every decision, and every uncertainty in a gripping story that is hard to put down. The protagonist, a feisty female whose new moniker is 'Stork Girl', is anything but staid and retiring and drives a story replete with as many twists and turns as the Catacombs themselves hold.
It's the 'you are there' feel that creates compelling tension throughout: "Look? she thought. Look where? It was permanent night, black everywhere…only it wasn't, not anymore. From an indeterminable distance away, a faint light appeared. Someone was coming." Readers don't just follow the story line; they are in the Catacombs right there with the protagonists, reliving the decisions and choices that come with exploring the unknown.
It should be mentioned that action moves between the first-person and the more observational third-person tone: this could be confusing to readers used to a straightforward plot that features one or the other; but under Bates' hand, it makes sense.
There's a fine line between the living and the dead, as this story evolves. With most horror reads, there's also a fine line between acceptance and plots that are too predictable. If it's one thing that can be said aboutThe Catacombs, it's that the combination of a back-and-forth perspective that enhances overall events and a focus on action that is less than anticipated makes for a read that will delight horror fans who want their novels steeped in psychological suspense as well as action.
When a book comes second in a series featuring the world’s scariest places, you can expect a setting pulled out of nightmares. In the series opener, Jeremy Bates took readers to the most popular place to commit suicide in the world. In follow-up The Catacombs, Bates explores the infamous labyrinthian tunnels under Paris, mass grave to over six million people. The Catacombs is a book of bones—fists clenched tight around weaponized femurs, caverns full of broken bones that crunch each time a foot steps upon them.
“Do not go anywhere on your own. That is the second rule of the catacombs.”
“What’s the first?”
“Bring backup batteries.”
“No, no, no,” Pascal said, shaking his head.
“The first rule is to get out again. The second is to come back. And the third is to do whatever you like.”
The catacombs aren’t creepy to Danièle, the spunky florist practicing French with Will. Danièle and her friends are ’cataphiles,’ urban explorers who wander the lesser-known areas of the catacombs. Will is a travel writer in Paris charting the nightlife, and, although he left a messy breakup behind in the states, he may be falling for Danièle’s free spirit. So he finds himself tagging along on a night mission to deep within the catacombs, lacking waterproof boots or any idea what lies ahead. Danièle’s friends plan to go deep into the catacombs, seeking a mysterious woman recorded on a camera they found lost in the tunnels.
The Catacombs is easy to consume whole, like a shocking, but delicious, pint of ice cream, as Bates never shies away from the bad or the ugly. The story pits together many aspects consumers of popular horror will know and love—the claustrophobia of caves and the underground, the mystery of found footage, and more. Although these elements aren’t wildly original, the detailed descriptions of the catacombs are a colorful addition to the usual horror fare. If you are looking for something to give you chills before you go to bed or make you think twice about turning off your light, then The Catacombs is the book for you.