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by Sam Cabot
Blue Rider Press, August 2013
433 pages
ISBN: 039916295X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In BLOOD OF THE LAMB, the author creates a race of people who live amongst us but are not like us. They are the Noantri, or the Others, although they are more commonly called vampires. Vampires have been literary darlings for a long time, perhaps beginning with Bram Stoker's shape-changing, blood-sucking creation Dracula. But less deadly vampires have become quite popular in recent years, showing up in everything from young adult novels to hit TV shows. These vampires do not prey on humans as a rule, using animal blood or artificial blood to stay alive. Like them, the Noantri do not prowl the night looking to suck human blood. Sam Cabot—the pseudonym for two writers, Carlos Dews, a professor who lives in Rome, and the award-winning mystery writer, S.J. Rozan -have ingenuously come up with a way for them to survive that is not fraught with sexual tension and human death. The Noantri have found this way, but they are in grave danger of losing access to it. The Concordat, a document of agreement signed by the Vatican several centuries ago, must be found and protected or they will be discovered.

An American priest, Thomas Kelly, is summoned to the Vatican by his mentor, Cardinal Cosse, to find an ancient document. He does not know he is being asked to unearth the Concordat. Kelly has no idea of its power and meaning, but he is soon running through the streets of Rome in the company of a beautiful art historian named Livia Pietro. The subtitle of this book is “A Novel of Secrets,” and there are certainly enough of these presented. Secret identities abound. The Noantri may be anyone, especially anyone with superhuman strength and agility. Livia's secret, which she soon shares with Father Kelly, is that she is a vampire. Humans find the vampires to be highly attractive and erotic and Father Kelly finds himself questioning his vow of celibacy when around her.

The vampires are presented as creatures, people really, who have contracted a disease through a microbe. This bestows a sort of immortality on them, and makes them members of a hidden society. Just as with all people, there are good and bad Noantri. They have conflicts amongst themselves, the chief of which is what to do with the Concordat.The main part of this book focuses on a sort of religious scavenger hunt. Kelly and Pietro go from one Roman church to another, finding pages from a dead poet's notebook, stolen from the Vatican library, with clues that will lead them eventually to the Concordat. But groups of vampires and humans are on their trail. Some Noantri want the Concordat to come to light so that their lives may be lived openly, while others feel that the world is not ready for this. At the same time, the misguided local police and Vatican police are in pursuit of them because they believe they comprise an international art theft ring.

It is very tempting, at this point, to give away one of the novel's biggest secrets. Suffice it to say, the final revelation about who is really a vampire is quite over the top. Sam Cabot does not lack for fictional boldness. But as the chase gets more frantic, it is hard to care about either the humans or the vampires. The characters lack depth and too many bits and pieces of their stories float around for the reader to be moved by their fates. Also, the Noantri's means of accessing blood is mentioned, but unfortunately never really shown. One technical distraction needs to be mentioned as well. The author puts some sentences in bold type, usually to indicate the silent thoughts of a character, but sometimes for other reasons. This disrupts the flow of the writing. Despite these failings, BLOOD OF THE LAMB will have great appeal to fans of Vatican thrillers, vampires, and strange re-imaginings of religious history.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, October 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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