Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bloodthirst – review

Author: Mark Ronson

First Published: 1979

Contains spoilers

You know you are on to a bad thing with a book when a 210 page novel takes two weeks to plough through, especially when you regularly devour 800-1000 page tomes in less than half the time. Worst still when you actually consider just shelving the book and the only reason you struggle on is because you run a blog and you intended to review it.

That said, bad is a relative term. People seek different things from books and perhaps it would be best to state that this was a book I just didn’t get on with. I’ll explore why soon.

The premise of the book is that Elizabeth Bathori was a vampire and for some reason lived in Hungary (rather than being Hungarian but living in Transylvania). During the retreat of the German army, during the Second World War, a small band of panzers take refuge in a ruined crypt. They are killed but blood gets onto the ages old corpse of a child.

Cutting to the 1970s Dr Peter Pilgrim is doing research into childhood catalepsy. One of his patients, Britt, has a strange desire for blood when she awakens. Peter, who is starting a relationship with French nurse Anne-Marie, begins to suspect that the illness is less neurological but more to do with a blood borne infection that also leads to bloodlust. Perhaps, he theorises, vampirism was a superstitious name for the disease.

Strange things are afoot in the hospital. Britt has bitten an orderly, there has been murder and Dr Stromberg, a visiting consultant from Finland, has been attacked. However, for Peter, things are on a low ebb as his research is ended due to his outlandish theories. He takes a holiday to France with Anne-Marie but the case just won’t leave him alone.

The book takes vampirism and twists it, twice. It takes the superstition and brings forth the theorem that it is actually an illness and then, at the end, brings it back around to the level of traditional vampirism. So, what made the book such a chore to read.

Perhaps some of it was the altogether too 70s feel to the prose, that just hadn’t aged so well. Perhaps also it was the fact that it was very much a hospital drama with murder until the end, and I have to admit I felt much more in tune with the book in the last couple of chapters. The prose were not badly written, but often felt perfunctory. I didn’t feel too much emotion from the prose and, occasionally, the dialogue felt unnatural. The story did hinge on coincidence often, which can be annoying.

All in all it was probably a combination of the above. I was not enamoured by the book, however you might feel differently. Reviews are a personal thing however, especially when it comes to the score. For me this can only get 2.5 out of 10, not necessarily badly written but a real chore and thus unsatisfying.

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