The Angel Maker

Dr. Frankenstein meets Dolly the Sheep in Stefan Brijs’s neo-gothic horror story. Already a bestseller in Brijs’s native Belgium, The Angel Maker makes its way to American shores cloaked in a narrative of eerie dread. As the novel opens, Dr. Victor Hoppe arrives at his old family home in the small village of Wolfheim. In the backseat of the car are three crying babies — deformed children that the renowned geneticist is at first loath to let the villagers see. Rumors about the triplet infants begin to spread. Are they freaks and monsters? Or is the oddly reticent doctor just trying to maintain his privacy? The answer, when it eventually comes to light, is as much a shock to the residents of Wolfheim as it is to the reader. For the first 100 pages, Brijs builds the suspense with such old-school atmosphere that you expect to hear haunting organ music while lightning streaks across the sky. The novel slows down in a middle section that painstakingly documents the evolution of a mad scientist alternately obsessed with cloning and wrestling with a Christ complex. The closing pages of The Angel Maker, however, are the stuff of nightmares and offer up some very unsettling ethical questions about man making man in his own image.