Review: The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery

by Jane Jensen

I've been interested in Jane Jensen's work since I've played the original Gabriel Knight computer game, Sins of the Father (although due to computer crashes I never finished it). A few months ago, I discovered that there was a sequel -- The Beast Within. However, in the flood of first-person shooters on the market, interactive fiction was washed out. It was impossible to find a copy of The Beast Within. Now, I understand there is a Gabriel Knight 3 either planned or released. Until I can find that, I'll be content with the novelization of The Beast Within. Not a fan of books based on other media (videogames, role-playing games, or television shows), I'm not expecting much. However, Jane Jensen, the author of this book is also the creator and author of the Gabriel Knight computer game series. I hope to be surprised.

Actually, I was. Sort of. The mystery was rather predictable, almost every revelation was telegraphed. However, what I did like about the book was the history of Bavaria, King Ludwig II, and Wagner. I've lived in Germany for a while, so I was able to revisit places I've visited. Probably 3 stars. More later.

And it's later. "A predictable mystery" would sum up this book. There was no real suspense to the book. Knight, a Shattenjaeger ("Shadow Hunter" -- a fighter of the supernatural/paranormal), is investigating killings near Munich, something the police think was done by wolves. Knight follows a suspect to a hunting lodge and somehow joins up with the gang. Rather than investigate the killings, he spends most of his time here, sniffing around the five (or six) lodge members. Of course, one of the lodge members is the culprit. However, Gabriel Knight, impulsive investigator, misses several obvious clues as to the nature of the killer, who the killer is, and who the real threat is. All of these are obvious to the reader, and should have been obvious to Knight as he regularly received messages from his sidekick.

Aside from the mystery that doesn't surprise anyone (or the telegraphed twists and revelations in the final "three months later" chapters), there is little else to recommend this book for except as a look at Bavaria's last monarch, Ludwig II ("The Mad King"). Jensen delves into Ludwig's history to create a portrait of the man, turning him into a werewolf. This comes as no surprise to the reader, having deduced this several chapters ahead of the character Grace. However, we are also led on a tour of two of Ludwig's castles, meet the famed composer Wagner, and get to experience Ludwig's last days as a monarch.

One feels that the author really wanted to tell a story about King Ludwig II than about Gabriel Knight. This book would have been better if she simply dropped everything that occurred in the now of 1994 and focused in on the Bavarian King.

Just my thoughts. I'm still looking forward to getting Gabriel Knight III when it comes out.

-- Recommended for the Ludwig/Louis/Wagner stuff, almost everything that happens to Grace. Skip over the Gabriel Knight sections.