In A COLDNESS IN THE BLOOD (2002), a modern-day installment of Fred Saberhagen's Dracula saga, set mainly in contemporary Chicago, Vlad Dracula is living under the name "Matthew Maule," after the character in THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES condemned to the curse that "God will give him blood to drink." As the story begins, college student Andy Keogh is setting up a website for the Count. After all, even the undead aristocracy must adjust to the new millennium. At this point, Andy has no idea that "Uncle Matt" is an old and powerful vampire. When Dickon, an even older but ludicrously cowardly nosferatu, shows up with a human alchemist, an ancient evil tracks them to Dracula's home. The alchemist's murder by a mysterious entity capable of mesmerizing Dracula himself launches "Uncle Matt," Andy, his ex-cop father Joe Keogh (who's quite familiar with the existence of vampires), and Dolly, granddaughter of a recently deceased stage magician who also practiced alchemy, on a quest for an Egyptian statuette that may conceal the fabled Philosopher's Stone. Meanwhile, Joe and his brother-in-law, John Southerland, introduced in AN OLD FRIEND OF THE FAMILY (Mina Harker's family, that is), wrestle with whether and how to reveal the world of the supernatural to Andy. A gang of ruthless vampires and a repulsive crocodile-god separately pursue the heroes on a cross-country search. Sobek, the crocodile monster, proves a credible threat to even Count Dracula. Dickon, incongruously timid and neurotic for one of the ancient undead, provides a bit of comic relief. A climactic confrontation leads to an astonishing and ingenious conclusion.
This is a fast-paced, solid adventure story, peppered with the wit and irony we would expect from Saberhagen's Dracula, even though it's narrated in the third person rather than the first like some of the other installments. This volume contains little vampire activity as such, but the Egyptian monster and his minions provide plenty of supernatural thrills. On the purely human side, Andy offers an engaging, sympathetic anchor of normality for the reader, as he struggles to adjust to "Uncle Matt's" true nature. Although A COLDNESS IN THE BLOOD doesn't rank up with such gems as THE DRACULA TAPE, THE HOLMES-DRACULA FILE, or AN OLD FRIEND OF THE FAMILY, it's a worthwhile addition to them. New readers probably shouldn't choose it as an introduction to the series; they might feel they've plunged into the middle of a story. Any fan of Saberhagen's earlier Dracula novels, however, should enjoy this one.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt