Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dance of Death, by P.N. Elrod

Dance of Death (Jonathan Barrett, Gentleman Vampire series)
Dance of Death, the fourth in P.N Elrod’s chronicles of Jonathan Barrett, is a ho-hum continuation of a series that started with great promise, but which will probably fade into mediocrity. The undead Jonathan Barrett and his “living only as sympathetic sidekick” relatives blunder their way through another couple of weeks of tawdry intrigue and gloomy adventure.

The enemies defeated in Death Masque rise again (though none so dramatically as Barrett) to cause him yet more trouble. We are also subjected too many times to scenes of Jonathan playing “horsey” with Richard, his bastard son by Clarinda, whom he now has been given to raise by Edmund, her oft-cuckolded husband, I suspect merely for the sole purpose of illustrating how deeply Jonathan loves the boy, so that we can sympathize with his deep spiritual anguish when the boy is kidnapped and held for ransom. Quite frankly, nothing we are shown about Richard’s character (spoiled little rich kid) through these expositions would have motivated me to dive into the ocean to save him from drowning.

We also finally see Barrett reunited with his lost vampiric love Nora. What a disappointment. Throughout the last couple of novels in the series, Elrod has raised the suspense level and dropped sinister hints regarding Nora’s disappearance, but when she comes back, it turns out she was with her aged aunt, taking the waters at Bath. Elrod breaks with vampirish lore in their reunion and allows the two to make love and to exchange blood, though the reunion could really have been made poignant and tragic by sticking to tradition and forcing them to settle for a passionate yet platonic eternity.

As always, Barrett keeps getting shot, stabbed, and clubbed into insensibility, then making a recovery after the villains have fled. No one ever seems to twig to the occult possibilities, possible because he predictably uses his hypnotic powers to erase suspicions. If I’d just seen someone shot or stabbed to death, who healed in the space of a few minutes, I think I’d protest rather loudly if his loyal cousin tried to take me in for a private conference. Feets, do your duty!

If you’ve been following the series, this one is worth the price in the used bookstores, but don’t blow full price for it, like I did.

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