For some time, there has been a craze for books about lusty, sexy vampires that seduce willing females. Books which deftly avoid the point that to snuggle with a vampire is to snuggle with a cold, dead corpse. For those who long to return to the fearsome creatures of Gothic fiction, author Eleanor Bourg Nicholson’s A Bloody Habit takes us back to a time when the undead generated terror.
The story follows the mysterious happenings in the life of fastidious barrister John Kemp, who on a return journey from Budapest meets a humorous little Dominican priest, the Rev. Thomas Edmund Gilroy. John, a social snob, immediately dismisses this Roman priest as an irritant, even after he discovers the man’s occupation is that of vampire slayer. Apparently, the Order of Preachers has a secret sideline.
Once back in London, John’s ordered life begins to unravel through a series of mysterious and tragic events—events that seem to relate to vampires. His dreams are haunted by blood-lusting beasts, and his thoughts stray to the smiling face of Father Gilroy. He dismisses both as the workings of an overactive imagination, as he has been reading a highly recommended novel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But as events unfold, John cannot ignore the presence of preternatural forces at work, and he finally realizes the need for supernatural intervention via Father Gilroy and his team.
Each chapter begins with a quote from Dracula, but Nicholson keeps the story from becoming a mere modern retelling with her own twists and red herrings that have the reader guessing about the fate of several characters.
The author’s deft use of sardonic wit, usually pointed at her pompous hero, gives the reader uncomfortable moments of self-recognition as John fails to see his own glaring faults while criticizing those around him. At heart, John is a good man in search of the truth, and this keeps the reader rooting for him, the woman he loves, and a cast of quirky but lovable supporting characters.
Even while Nicholson is having fun placing her characters in increasingly dangerous—and sometimes hilarious—situations, the author never loses sight of the spiritual battle, which includes God’s mercy. This adds an extra layer of suspense to the climax, and the epilogue provides a reminder that evil leaves a residue on those it touches.
With its perfect combination of humor, horror and suspense, A Bloody Habit is a fun page-turning experience and has left this reader hoping that Nicholson has another tale up her proverbial sleeve.