7.10.16

BEAST

Sánchez Romero and S.R. Schwalb. Beast: Werewolves, Serial Killers and Man-Eaters, the Mystery of the Monsters of the Gévaudan. Skyhorse Publishing, 2016. 

During the period 1764 to 1767 a series of horrific attacks occurred in the remote Gévaudan region of France. The victims, numbering in excess of one hundred, consisted mostly of women and children who were subjected to a frenzied assault that often resulted in the dismemberment of the body. Survivors of such attacks (and there were few) described seeing a large beast with a dog-like muzzle, and coarse coat flecked with orange. The events caused a panic in the region, and after the failure of the locals to track down and kill the animal, if such it was, the French government intervened and sent their own expert huntsman to attempt to track down the beast.

The authors have chosen their subject well, for there is plenty of archival material extant, including police and newspaper reports, as well as local official records. This material has been assessed in a professional and scientific way, and all the theories explaining the attacks such as wolves, were-wolves, hyenas or men dressed as wolves are objectively compared. At the same time the book has a pleasant narrative style, which keeps the reader interested in unravelling the mystery of who or what was responsible.

The reader will therefore find this to be both a readable and informative account, which also serves a useful purpose, since the book adds to the social history of 18th century provincial France by providing a vivid portrayal of the way local society reacted to the trauma they were experiencing. -- Robin Carlile

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