I get a lot of review requests from authors who are trying to be the next big thing, who are desperate to sell themselves as doing something completely new and original. That's cool, and I appreciate the effort, but sometimes I just want to sit back, settle in, and explore a book that's comfortably familiar. Horror is one genre in particular where, more and more, I find myself looking for authors who appreciate the classic approach. No offense to those who prefer their horror urban and romantic, but I like is bloody and monstrously evil.
That brings me to Donald Allen Kirch. While I've only had the pleasure of reading one of his titles, Reich was indeed a classic tale of vampires, Nazis, and the very essence of evil - a novel that hearkened back to the days of F. Paul Wilson. Still Waters is another of his on my must-read list, combining old world pulp, Egyptian mummies, and the Titanic. That brings us to his latest, A Stake In Murder, which presents us with another classic vampire novel that owes as much to Stoker as it does The Night Stalker.
This was, to put it bluntly, one hell of a lot of fun. Kirch puts a bit of an Eastern spin on his vampires, incorporating some of the darkest elements of the Aswang from Filipino folklore, but keeping them largely recognizable as Dracula's descendants. I particularly liked the elongated feeding tongue, which he puts to insanely effective use in a scene involving the oral violation of a pregnant woman and the consumption of the triplets inside of her. Yes, that picture of visceral horror forming in the back of your head is spot-on!
Perhaps one of the most effective, most memorable aspects of the novel, however, has nothing to do with the monsters. Kirch displays a fantastic talent for creating and defining unique characters who immediately either endear themselves or creep right under your skin. At first I thought he was laying it on a little thick with both Captain Matheson and Sebastian Hemlock, but there was a distinct moment when both characters clicked for me, becoming the kind of protagonists you desperately want to follow through to the end of their story.
The actual police procedural element is strong, and ties in nicely with the monster chase, a formula that will be immediately recognizable to fans of Grimm. Behind that is a nice layering of back stories, involving the origins of our vampire, and his first encounter with Hemlock. By the time all the elements come together in the bloodcurdling climax, you'll find yourself with just as much A Stake In Murder as Matheson, Hemlock, and their colleagues. Great, visceral, classic horror with just a bit of a folklore twist.
Kindle Edition, 154 pages
Published August 7th 2014 by Double Dragon Publishing