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Supping With Panthers Paperback – 6 Nov 2008
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** 'Goes at a cracking pace with its wit, superb sense of humour and literary cross-references' SCOTSMAN ** 'A ripping yarn' INDEPENDENT ** 'Meticulous about literary and historical accuracy - scarily bright' DAILY TELEGRAPH ** 'Charged with an authentic poetic force' PUBLISHING NEWS ** 'A brilliant, new fin-de-siecle vampire mystery.' BOOKSELLER ** '... oozing atmospgere and dripping with menace.' YORKSHIRE POST
* A brilliantly imaginative novel of passion and suspense
* 'High entertainment' THE TIMES
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Top customer reviews
It starts in British India at the height of the Raj's power. A small group of British troops undertake a recon. mission to the remote kingdom of Kalishutra. There they find a British doctor, Jack Elliot investigating a strange "disease" which drives the locals mad with blood lust, and also makes them strangely resistant to gunfire, yet also "allergic" to garlic. The mission rapidly goes very badly wrong as the Kali worshipping natives (think Indianna Jones & the Temple of Doom) fall on the Brits and massacre them. Only Dr. Elliot survives.
The book then fast forwards a decade to London. Jack Elliot is working in a medical mission in the slums of the east end of London when one of his friends is found dead....and totally drained of blood. He's asked by his friends ward, the actress Lucy Westcote to investigate. With Lucy's theatre manager, a certain Irishman by the name of Bram Stoker, he discovers a nest of vampires in London... you can anticipate the rest of the story yourself.
At times this book is the very equal of Dracula itself, but too frequently becomes bogged down in overly descriptive prose and becomes too "interview with a vampire" for my taste. The use of fictional & factual characters works wonderfully. At one dinner we have Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, the vampire Lord Byron & Dr. Elliot....and it works! The whole book is riddled with little in-jokes that only fans of the real Bram Stoker will recognise. Likewise anyone familliar with the truth behind Jack the Ripper or Arthur Conan Doyle's early life will be both amused at the little clues planted in the text and by the authors very thorough research.
Most vampire books are poorly written pulp fiction with aspirations to high art. This is quite different and is well worth reading.
One of the great appeals of the book is that it pulls together a number of separate 'traditional' horror stories in a new and entirely credible way The story blends fiction, legend and historical fact, but with no clear cutoff between them, so that the whole story becomes highly credible.
I demolished this book in a single reading - it gathers momentum quickly, and is a very compelling read.
If I mention characters such as Bram Stoker, Doctor Bell, Mary Kelly and the fact its set mainly in 1888 London, you can guess which direction it takes !
Taking in vampiric Indian cults and transporting them to Victorian London, the masterful writing sets us a fine tale, with plenty of twists, turns and 'Hammer horror' episodes to relish.
Tom Holland also wrote the excellent non-fiction Persian Fire and Rubicon., histories of, respectively the Persian Invasion of Greece, and the end of the Roman Republic : both superb.
The story proceeds very well for the first 100 or so pages, but then the first signs of trouble with the author's story telling ability appear, when one of the characters writes an urgent letter to her husband's ward. The letter should be short and to the point in this emergency situation but it's about 30 pages long - and that's book pages so likely to be closer to 90 pages in a normal sized hand-writing. It rambles on leaving out no gasp, twitch or shudder, no detail of the weather. It's not the sort of letter people write when they're in a hurry and need a quick response. And this is the sort of irritation that spoils the book right to the end. The author doesn't seem to have any grasp of how people really behave. It's just a device of course, to convey the story and the story itself is quite good. In order to enable myself to enjoy the story, I tried to ignore the vehicles the author used to deliver it as, in most cases, they simply didn't work.
It's an imaginative vampire tale - almost as good as Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and Richard Matheson's "I am Legend", but not nearly so well structured.