Maslen mixes modern technology with visceral vampire action to create a gritty horror thriller that feels grounded in the classics of the genre.
Caroline Murray is a successful barrister, engaged to a brilliant skin-cancer researcher. So, when Ariane Van Helsing appears on her doorstep claiming her fiancé’s new employer is actually a vampire seeking a way to walk in the sun, Caroline is more than sceptical. However, when her fiancé sends her a desperate email claiming to have found something very wrong, then sends another claiming everything is fine but breaking off the engagement, Caroline is drawn deeper into Van Helsing’s world.
This novel is a tale of modern vampire hunting that does not gloss over the brutality of human predators and those who kill them, or the issues of secrecy, legality, and investigation that having monsters that appear human living among the modern world raises. Maslen skilfully builds a world of paranoia, covert alliances with parts of the police and religious hierarchies across the world, and devious techniques that is definitely more gritty thriller than paranormal romance. While both his vampires and the methods used to kill them are visceral in places, this grows from the world, making it feel—if not pleasant—in no way gratuitous.
Maslen addresses the intersection of science and magic that all fantasy and horror set in the modern world must face by creating his own origin story for vampires and explanation for their abilities and—by omission—implying there are not also myriad other famous mythical species around the world. While this alternate myth might well not convince the most rational of biologists or other scientists that vampires can exist in our world, it is likely to be solid enough to convince readers that vampires could exist that way in Maslen’s world; and is equally likely to seem a fresh perspective that remains consistent with existing vampire tales to fans of the genre.
It is in this consistency with previous greats of Western vampire fiction that this novel is most likely to divide readers. As with many vampire stories set in a modern world almost our own, Maslen not only assumes Dracula and other famous tales exist but leans into the idea that it was semi-biographical; thus, Abraham Van Helsing was a vampire hunter and his descendants have continued the crusade. This—combined with plausible reasons and ways for both vampires and government agencies to conceal the apex predator menace—is a reasonably nuanced example of a not uncommon trope. However, as can be seen in the protagonist’s name, Maslen goes further, giving other characters names plucked from classic vampire literature that are not the result of “vampire fiction is propaganda”; the archness of this is amplified by the inclusion of that most stereotypical of vampiric-concealment methods, the anagram. Depending on the reader’s sensitivity to these things, the density of name-checking might be high enough to create a sense of pastiche that works against the horror of the narrative. While Maslen does provide a possible explanation for such density, it comes late enough in the book that any damage to immersion is likely done.
Continuing the echoes of Dracula, the story is told as a series of extracts from Caroline’s diary and other character’s records. While the epistolary form can be distancing, Maslen skilfully uses it to refine events down to critical moments and provide—sometimes very different—perspectives on the same thing, building intensity and dramatic irony.
Caroline is an engaging protagonist, nicely balanced between clinging to modern rationalism and refusing to accept vampires exist even in the face of strong evidence. Her training as a lawyer serves both to increase her scepticism and to aid her in strategising once she does accept. While her background intellectual rather than manual trade, her sportiness makes her athletic enough that surviving conflict with vampires is not implausible.
The supporting cast are well-crafted. Mostly vampires, hunters, or those who know about the existence of vampires, they share a quality of expedience. However, Maslen gives them very different reasons for their involvement and nuances of personality, making each of them feel like a unique character yet not out of place.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking an engaging perspective on how vampiric predators might come to exist alongside us and the costs necessary to combat them.
2 thoughts on “Blood Loss by Andy Maslen”
You’re so good at this… when do you find the time?
Do you beta read? (For $?)
I read a lot for recreation, so unless the book isn’t one I enjoy reading it doesn’t actually take up time I wouldn’t have been reading anyway. I also have a good memory and have been writing reviews like this for some time, so writing them usually flows well. So, I find the time by not doing other things (for example, playing sport all weekend, learning the piano, traveling the world by canoe).
I beta read for people occasionally: I don’t charge for it because it’s much the same as reviewing a published book.
I also provide editing services, which I do charge for because technical advice on a manuscript is much more intensive both to develop and document.
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