Red Death

Red Death
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 13-Apr-1994

Adapted from "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #9 (Spring 1994).

Review by Cathy Krusberg

P. N. Elrod. Red Death. Ace, 1993; $4.99/$5.99.

Red Death begins in 1773, with seventeen-year-old Jonathan Barrett of Long Island being all but forcibly shipped off to study law at Cambridge (in England, not in Massachusetts). Warning: the first chapter of Red Death is profoundly depressing, depicting life with Jonathan's not-quite-sane mother who holds the family purse strings like a garrote. After that, Elrod kicks in with her usual gusto, portraying Jonathan's arrival in England, his determination to lose his virginity, and the exceptional woman he falls in love with: Nora Jones.

Nora has some strange habits, but when he looks into her eyes, Jonathan realizes they truly don't matter. It doesn't matter that she sees other men. That she won't watch the sunrise with him. That she drinks blood. Even that he has drunk hers. More important are her intelligence, her charm -- and the love they share.

In 1776 Jonathan is called back home to help deal with the fortunes of war in the Colonies. Unhappily for him, the fortunes of war include his being fatally wounded. Happily for him, the blood that Nora shared has had a lasting, if most unexpected, effect. From waking in a coffin six feet underground, to struggling home and seeking sustenance from his favorite horse Rolly, to discovering his wardrobe despoiled and trying to explain the truth to his sister Elizabeth: Jonathan concludes that Nora *did* something to him, something he doesn't fully understand. She never even gave him a name for what she was, for what he now is.

Red Death will present problems for readers unacquainted with Elrod's earlier works. The word *vampire* never appears: rather, we see Jonathan's daylight immobility; his reaction to running water; his sudden recovery from a post-mortem (if you will) gunshot wound. You need to be familiar with the rules of vampirism as presented in The Vampire Files (Jonathan first appeared in Bloodcircle, third title in that series) to fully appreciate these details. In all other respects the book stands well on its own. Elrod has a sure touch with historical facts, from the significant (who, what, where) to the details of everyday life (ingredients of ladies' hair styles; a candle left burning for the night in a wide bowl of water). Character portrayals, motivations, action: all stay believable and engaging, largely because Elrod lets her characters feel and shares their feelings with us: the warm friendship that develops almost instantly between Jonathan and his English cousin; Jonathan's love for his father and sister; Nora's guilt and consternation at what she *must* do to survive*. And the action never flags. Struggle through that horrid first chapter and keep reading. It's well worth it.

But then, Elrod's work always is.

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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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