I finished a really good book last night! I received a advanced review copy of The Dracula Dossier by James Reese from Librarything and immediately realized it was perfect for the RIP challenge. I started it on September 1st and finished in a week. Had I not had to get up early on Saturday for hiking I would have stayed up late to finish which is always a very good sign!
It is a great premise: what if Bram Stoker knew Jack the Ripper and wrote Dracula as a response to his experiences fighting the killer? The story is told through Bram Stoker's diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings, the same format as Dracula. Set in 1888, we begin with Stoker depressed, vaguely self distructive and very dissatisfied with his life. He's basically the COO for The Lyceum, the playhouse of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry and indispensable to Irving. But Stoker feels he is wasting his life and his talents. He's at a crossroads, a crisis point.
He meets an American doctor, Francis Tumblety. A bizarre dandy who takes his two hounds with him everywhere, Tumblety also seems to have the ability to charm or hypnotize. He immediately has the run of the Lyceum though no one ever sees him leaving or entering. Though Stoker loathes him, Tumblety ingratiates himself to Irving so Stoker must deal with him. Tumblety also seems to follow Stoker, showing up outside the Lyceum in London. Including at Stoker's initiation into a secret society! That is when the story really picks up and the murders begin.
The story is so packed with details it is incredibly easy to get into. You can picture the dingy, gaslit streets of London, the overstuffed Victorian drawing rooms and the bloody murders. Even though we know that Stoker survives and that the Ripper is never caught, the action sweeps you up. There are footnotes, which i found pretty useful as they detailed some of the background information on various characters. The one thing i wish about this book is that it had more background about the killer. It would be hard to put in with the structure of the book but i think it would have helped.
Very recommended. I give it a 6. Fans of historical mysteries, Ripper books, or alternate history novels would be pleased with it. It comes out October 7 so any RIPpers (pun very intended) who are interested have a few weeks to read it before Halloween. Enjoy!