|ANNO DRACULA by Kim Newman|
Published 1992 by Simon & Schuster (Great Britain)
Published 1993 by Carroll & Graf (USA)
ISBN# 0-88184-967-7 (U.S. Hardcover)
ISBN# 0-38072-345-X (U.S. Paperback)
Reviewed October 8, 1998
The premise of Anno Dracula is unique in my experience. What if Dracula had not been destroyed at the end of Bram Stoker's novel, but instead succeeded in his plan to invade England and spread vampirism throughout the populace? The answer to this inspired question is a wonderfully creepy run though a Victorian England that never was.The venerable Count has wooed Queen Victoria and become the Prince Consort, making vampirism fashionable in England. Readers familiar with Victorian literature will find many familiar faces, ranging from the obvious to the obscure, scattered throughout the story. Fellow vampires Ruthven, Varney, Carmilla, and others make appearances, as do real historical figures such as Scotland Yard's Inspector Lestrade (of "Jack the Ripper" fame) and Bram Stoker's wife, Florence. Newman delights in working in meetings between disparate characters -- one of the most fun appearances in the book is when an autopsy is performed on a murdered vampire by Drs. Jekyll and Moreau.
The main plot revolves around the investigation of the "Silver Knife" murders. It seems that a certain someone is going around Whitechapel killing vampire whores with a silver scalpel. The tension does not revolve so much around the mystery -- we know the identity of "Jack" almost immediately -- but around the interactions between the various characters and social classes. The story is exceptionally well crafted, as we follow Charles Beauregard, a mortal member of the mysterious Diogenes Club, and Geneviève Dieudonné, and elder vampire contemporary to Dracula (though a different breed), on their investigation of the murders throughout this extremely well-crafted world.
I cannot tell you about the best part of the book without giving away a spectacular surprise. Let me simply say that just when the story is over, it ain't over yet. This book has the hands-down single best surprise ending I have ever read. For anyone who has ever enjoyed a good vampire novel, (though don't let it stop you if you haven't), this book is simply not to be missed.