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Literary equivalent of Hammer Horror
on 2 June 2014
It struck me early on that this would make a classic Hammer Horror Movie, with the emphasis on 'ham'. And in fact, it did, with Christopher Lee playing the hero for a change, as Duke de Richleau. That is pretty much all you need to know. However, I will make a few personal observations. It's a group of upper class rich stereotypes from a bygone era that I am not sure ever even existed. They go charging about the English country side and dashing off in conveniently fuelled and ready to take off private aircraft across Europe to foil a dreadful satanic plot in which they have unwittingly become embroiled. They are temporarily thwarted at every turn by villains, who can be readily identified by their various physical peculiarities and deformities. Obviously.
The text is littered with all manner of references to satanic practices and daft myth and legend relating to the dark arts, to the point that it just becomes very, very silly. How much bunk the author must have waded through to end up with such mish-mash of nonsense I can only imagine but he must have been overwhelmed because he certainly wasn't that discerning in the final cut and the effect is an overload that renders any reasonable suspension of belief impossible.
No occurrence or situation is so terrible it seems, not even the kidnapping of ones only child, that one cannot make the time at least, to manage a ham sandwich, if not a full 4 course meal and every venue has access to a well stocked cellar of excellent wines. Every repast is detailed. At first, I found it 'quaint' and nostalgic but I struggled to complete it because it is just so 'twee' and dated without the depth or skill needed to elevate it above this perception. No suspense, no terror, angst or pathos, oh and in the end, everyone, save the chronically obvious villain, lives happily ever after.
Does it work? No, It fails on the horror front. Just not at all frightening but it did make me laugh in a couple of places. I think the difference between a novel being described as dated and a novel really achieving classic status must be in the execution. Bram Stoker's Dracula is a classic. The Devil Rides out is just daft. Read it for nostalgia or comedy effect.
Note on the kindle copy - some errors I think but didn't pay too much attention. I was just trying to get through it.
Update July: realised I gave this 3 stars originally, which puts it on a par with some books I rate fairly decent reads. Not deserved, so have revised down to 2 stars, which is more appropriate.