Genre: Vampire fantasy
“For a hundred years, Jerome Atherton has roamed the world in a fruitless search for a cure for his vampirism. Now he has returned to the family home – a crumbling mansion that sits, brooding, on a bluff above the river town that bears his family’s name – and his faithful manservant, a gargoyle named Kamen. Jerry falls for a TV news anchor named Lauren Whitacre, but when Lauren discovers his secret, he must flee again. But not for long. Not for nearly long enough.
Upon his return, another TV news personality intrigues him: reporter Callie Dailey. But Jerry Atherton is not the first vampire Callie has run into and she is not interested in complicating her life with another. Yet Jerry needs Callie’s help to find out why an out-of-town developer is so interested in his family's old shipyard. Will he have to use his vampiric powers of persuasion on Callie? If he does, he may lose her forever…”
Lynne Cantwell’s biography tells us she has been writing fiction since the second grade, when the kid who sat in front of her showed her a book he had written, and she thought, "I could do that." The result was "Susie and the Talking Doll," a picture book illustrated by the author about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks.
Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master's degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. She is also a contributing author at Indies Unlimited.
Nosferatu (the movie) scared the bejazus out of me at an early age. Imprinted on my hind brain forever is the image of the ghoulish shadow thrown onto the wall of the staircase as the creature creeps upwards, towards the bedroom of his beloved victim. Thereafter I came to terms with vampires as scary but comedic entertainment through dear Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She sure got through ‘em, with her trusty stake and sharp one-liners. I mention all this to show that I can go either way with vampires.
There is romance in the novel, and the story isn’t really dark, so I have been pondering what genre this occupies. You can judge the result of my deliberations for yourself if you give the book a whirl.
This vampire tale kept me on the edge of my seat whenever the vampire was on stage as I examined every utterance for a careless invitation to step inside, and occasionally shouted at the Kindle in my hand ‘don’t look into his eyes!’. So tension is kept high.
There is, however, rather little staking – without which the vampire genre inevitably feels a little thin. Reasoning with a vampire, with any expectation of not ending up with a sore neck and an aversion to daylight, seems to this reader to be a fool’s game. It’s all about the catching and the biting, with vampires, isn’t it? Cantwell does, however, give something of the story of the vampire in history and its transmogrification into a fiction staple. This she does through one of her engaging narrators, Callie Dailey – a local TV news anchor, very much in the Tess Showalter mould (see the Magic series). She has the Cantwellian, spunky heroine ‘come on, what’s the worst that can happen?’ approach to danger, and Gretchen the video operator follows gamely at her heels.
The second narrator is, however, more fun even than the ever-inquisitive reporter and her sidekick. Kamen functions under a glamour laid upon him by his master. He is the magical factotum of Jerome, the Atherton vampire, and through Kamen’s glum narrative we are given a quite different slant on events. Kamen is rather like Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker’s Guide, but with wings. And better at catching rats at need. Kamen has a favourite line: “if a creature of stone could feel [insert emotion], then I would feel it now.” For dogged goodness, which he constantly downplays, Kamen is without doubt the most appealing character in the novel. He considers himself dull. But he is not. The vampire gets a sense of civic duty (although I still don’t trust him), the reporter gets a boyfriend, but Kamen gets a soul. Nice.
As ever, it is the cast of characters which invigorate this new novel of Cantwell’s. She gives each one breadth, depth and life (even the dead ones …). The pages turn briskly.
An accomplished and well-edited work of fiction. No infelicities to report.
Rating: **** Four Stars
Reviewed by: Judi Moore
Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words