Eleanor Nicholson drives a stake through Bram Stoker’s heart
Since gremlins are currently inhabiting my computer, I’m willing to believe just about anything. I’m using an old light-duty laptop to limp along without most of my software until a stake can be driven through the stony heart of my usual machine.
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Or at least that is what I expect the cure to be, since I’ve recently finished reading the latest novel from Ignatius Press, A Bloody Habit, by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson. This book is a riff on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, featuring Dominican priests as vampire slayers in the depths of London in the year 1900. My first reaction when it crossed my desk was, “Who would want to bother with this?” But on a slow holiday, I did. And now, since I am willing to believe anything….
Nicholson unaccountably persuaded me to suspend my disbelief in this novel, which explores real and imaginary evils in an urban society spinning away from both God and the Good (which, understood more deeply, are the same). The protagonist is a conventional English lawyer with a marked distaste for Papists who is forced by his own experiences to accept the help of a maddeningly cheerful (and delightfully sane) Dominican priest. Together, and with the help of the local constabulary, they foil a vampiric plot to twist the world toward extremely dubious higher ends.
As the author’s bio says, Eleanor Nicholson edited the Ignatius Critical Edition of Dracula “and yearns to correct Count Dracula’s strategic errors.” Even so, her vampire is no match for Thomas Edmund Gilroy, OP. But Nicholson is a fine writer. Though the vampire still loses, the liveliness of both character and setting delights as much as the bizarre tale itself.
The combination of believable protagonists with deft storytelling is even more effective because the author is able to hint at the deeper issues which plagued the dominant culture of nineteenth-century England, not to mention our own culture today—as we open ourselves continuously to evils we fail utterly to understand. So here I sit, typing a desperate review against the onslaught of so many things which do not work properly, so much that is out of sync, and so great a number of phantasms that are truly other than what they appear to be.
Maybe I will believe anything. But in good fiction, that is perfectly fine.
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