Kim Newman and Anno Dracula – review

I’m halfway through the literary feast that is Dracula Cha Cha Cha, the third book in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series. I’d been intrigued by Anno Dracula ever since I’d spotted it in Waterstones and admired its Victorian cover design, but I actually read it for the first time after borrowing it from my girlfriend a couple of years ago. I loved it from the first page. This is my Anno Dracula review.

Anno Dracula contains one of the best opening sequences I’ve ever read. A Jack the Ripper-style murder in London fog, seen through the eyes of the killer. It hooked me immediately. What follows is in essence an alternate history but also a reinterpretation of that most infamous of vampire novels, Dracula. Count Dracula escapes his hunters, the protagonists of Stoker’s story, and takes Queen Victoria as his bride. Meanwhile, a killer in Whitechapel is hunting down vampire girls and gorily dispatching them.

The author: Kim Newman

Newman’s skill as novelist isn’t just down to his writing style. In fact, I get the impression that his rich use of vocabulary and effective employment of descriptions are more a result of his foremost agenda. That is, synthesising different vampire mythologies and references into a new cohesive entity.

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MacBride is the New Black: a Stuart MacBride review

I have just finished reading Flesh House by Stuart MacBride. It was brilliant, though I don’t know why I sound surprised – I’m not a MacBride novice by a long stretch, and I was in fact re-reading this one. I’ve actually read most of his novels. My first, the aforementioned Flesh House, must have been back when I was twenty or so. It was (and is) an extremely gripping police procedural, veined with a delectably black sense of humour and splattered with enough visceral detail to keep Jack the Ripper himself happy. We could analyse it to work out what makes it so good. But this post is more of a Stuart MacBride review; an effort to pinpoint the attributes that make one of the best active authors out there.

Anyway. After reading Flesh House for the first time, I tracked through the remains of MacBride’s oeuvre, devouring his books on sight. Of course, this reading fervour rather blinded me to the chronology of his Logan McCrae series; I don’t think I read a single book in consecutive order, having started with the fourth and finishing with the first. Not a problem – they’re all great stories and they work well as independent novels. But that hasn’t stopped me going back and reading them all again from the beginning.

A top-tier author

There’s a small clutch of authors I consider to be my favourites. I find that nowadays I don’t have absolute favourite authors or bands or films. I tend have inner circles, pantheons of admired figures and pieces, usually champions of different genres. Stuart MacBride is in that inner circle, alongside Neil Gaiman and Stephen King and probably a few more. And out of all of them, I think MacBride writes the best story.

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