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He felt an eerie, cluttered sensation in his head, as if his brain were clogged with an overabundance of thoughts, and this developed into a mental discordance, shards of rage, peals of disgust, interludes of gloating joy, blasts of implacable anger, and lustful thoughts like knives, a mosaic of impressions that together composed a unity, a whole.



This is an investigation procedural—murder, clues, puzzle, solve—and it's pretty much standard bearing, in the initial setup, at least. All characters are vampires called The Family. They have gathered in an old castle somewhere bewteen Europe and Asia for The Decanting. For over three centuries they have been creating, you see, The Golden, a breeded mortal whose potable blood holds untold secrets and powers. Before the ceremony, they find the Golden a sexually-violated, discarded bota bag of bloodless, dead flesh. The ensuing investigation by our protag—Michel Beheim, a former policeman, but only 2 years a bloodsucker—brings up, natch, underlying deceits, betrayals, and terrifying unknowns.

Fortunately this is written before the sparklization of mankind's most fearsome enemy. The characters are too reprehensible for cuddling and kissing—intercourse is more like a transformation, "the liberation of an angel of desire and its struggle with the repressive demon"(p.68)—and Beheim is hard to play tag with while diabolical conspiracies unfold. Form follows function, however, with author Shepard's bynzantine verbiage—such metaphors and similies! Such delightful loquacity!—pushing this Victorian-esque, locked-castle romp through embellished and visuablly-discernable "symphonies of roaring anxiety and screaming joy that evoked . . . timeless mystery and tragic tradition"(p.67)

The setting is a tumble through the alla prima garden of un-earthly delights. At one point, Beheim must confront The Patriarch, who


had succeeded in wedding the contnuums of life and death, and here he dwelled in both, at home in fire and in ice, fullness and nothingness, steeping himself in these pure contraries, hardening over the long centuries into a god.



His realm is called The Mysteries and seems a swirling mass of hallucinogenic cruelty, dwelled-upon butchery, and paralyzing insanity. Inside the castle is Gormenghastian, with its niches of monsters and succubii commanding diroramas of actrocities and deviencences "to pin down some fluttering corner of the soul"(p.127).

By solving the murder, Beheim also gets the girl. At first he sees Alexandra as "an anticipation of shivery delights, the sort of fascination one might have for a serpent with breasts"(p.27), then—with an "eerily inconsistent vitality"—as joining him "in a sleek and perfectly coordinated union"(p.40).

The prose, of course, is exquisite, raising the read into that coveted Ivory Tower category; however, it is also alienating and cold, like its character creations. As a result, I was never engaged fully, yet lanquishing afloat in that Boo'ya Moon pool(1), was enough for me.


1) Lisey' Story by Stephen King

text only © copyright 11/16/2016 by Silver Lynx LLC

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