Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Review: The Dracula Dossier, by James Reese
The Dracula Dossier is an interesting take on two of late-19th century England’s most famous legends: the story of Jack the Ripper, and Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula. Set in 1888, Stoker works for his friend Henry Irving’s theatre company, when he meets the eccentric American doctor Tumblety, who has an uncanny ability to walk through locked doors. One night, out for a walk, Stoker sees his new friend turn a corner. At the exact same moment, Jack the Ripper’s crime spree begins, and Stoker becomes the primary suspect.
The story, like Dracula (which wouldn’t be published until seven years after this book takes place), is told through a series of letters, journal entries, and telegrams, from Stoker’s point of view. Therefore, Reese’s instant challenge is to authenticate Stoker’s language patterns—which he manages to do quite well here. It really feels as though Stoker’s the one doing the talking, which I thought was a particular strength of this novel. The book is also accompanied by a series of “editor’s” footnotes, which at first I thought were going to be distracting. However, the further I got into the book, the less I was bothered by them.
The book is also highly bizarre, almost to the extreme. As in Dracula, there’s no room for subtlety here. The Dracula Dossier is not for the faint of heart; there’s quite a lot of blood. The novel opens with Bram walking through the streets of New York with a bloody knife in his pocket. In another scene, Stoker visits the house of the Wildes (parents of Oscar, who makes an appearance here) in London, where Sir William has an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, complete with mummy, on display in his library.
The only criticism I have of it is that it seemed to take a little while to get going: the true story doesn’t begin until about halfway through, though there’s some great setup beforehand. I’m not sure how much of this novel is fact and how much of it is fiction, but the story is entertaining, certainly. This book is an interesting hybrid of stories: Jack the Ripper and Dracula, of course, and Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White. So in all, this is a deliciously creepy book. Browse inside.
Also reviewed by: Medieval Bookworm, Devourer of Books