Mystery Books for Sale

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by Royce Prouty
Putnam, June 2013
352 pages
ISBN: 0399158553

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Joseph Barkeley works out of an obscure warehouse under an L track somewhere in Chicago. He's a loner, married to his work. He deals in rare manuscripts, with the occasional flyer into handwriting and document authentication. He's good at his work, uncannily good. It's almost as if he can see into the paper, tell when it was made, where it was made, that sort of thing. A nice skill to have in his line of work.

Barkeley's commission is to authenticate and purchase a manuscript, ALL of a manuscript that is coming up for auction. The buyer desires to remain anonymous, which is not unusual for buyers of rare and/or antique items. The manuscript is the original draft and notes for Bram Stoker's best-known work: DRACULA. This involves two trips to Romania, a country Barkeley has no desire to ever see again. American nuns adopted him and his brother from Romania after their parents died and they spent time in an orphanage there.

On his second trip to Bran Castle, Barkeley realizes that he is a prisoner and his captor is one of the sons of Stoker's Count Dracula. This son needs Barkeley to decipher messages in the original manuscript and notes in order to find relatives of the Count. As he's doing this, he discovers things about his own family, secrets that make it clear that he and his brother have links to the family, links that make it doubtful he will ever truly escape.

One might think that the craze for vampire literature would have faded by now. One would be wrong. Fiction like STOKER'S MANUSCRIPT helps to keep the sub-genre alike and kicking, as it were. Prouty takes actual events from the original publication to give this novel a compelling realism. Barkeley is pretty nondescript as a character when the reader first meets him; by the end of the novel, he has some character, some underpinnings, some awareness that he didn't have at the beginning. The traditions of the vampire legends remain basically unchanged; Prouty understands there is no need to mess with the basics that Stoker established so many years ago.

P.J. Coldren lives in northern lower Michigan where she reads and reviews widely across the mystery genre when she isn't working in her local hospital pharmacy.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, May 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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