Author Robert Masello’s latest travels back for another go of historical fiction set in Victorian London. Two years back, Masello had Robert Louis Stevenson stalk Jack the Ripper in The Jekyll Revelation. Upping his game, Masello bites into the most-enduring of all horror stories, Dracula. The Night Crossing exhumes Bram Stoker’s background as he investigates, of all things, an ancient Egyptian curse that is the potion needed for his famous novel’s origin. Along the way he is enamored, and ably assisted, by a regal Gypsy lovely who possesses knowledge of that most desolate of lands, Transylvania. Yes, that plot summary is as heavy-handed as the novel itself and unfortunately comes nowhere near a hopeful Dracula vs the Mummy crossover.
Instead of MST3K-worthy schlock, Masello writes an intriguing and well-documented piece of work, truly making his fiction as historical as possible. He doesn’t craft Stoker as a retread of a hero, rather as a fiery Irishman who is solely attempting to do something good, albeit for the sake of gathering story material. Tales of Victorian virtue don’t always make for the most gripping of literary devices, so in Stoker’s quest for doing the right thing, the plot jumps around as ungrounded lightning. The current is there, both bright and hot, but the straight flash of the story becomes lost. Carpathian adventures, a cemetery ghost story, unification of labor workers, a cursed gold box, and a certain trans-Atlantic voyage wraps The Night Crossing within several layers of heavy gauze, entombing the sure-shot tale into a deeply buried sarcophagus. Gothic horror and Victorian crime is a genre ripe for blood-letting. Masello needed to abandon the historical plight of man and let it flow. Less of the theater backstage, and more of the spectacle, please.
Masello is asking his readers to take a ransom cab with him and explore Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula. The story is sound, and the ride a fun one – dark and creepy with fog and large insects – but impaling the Egyptian Book of Dead with the legend of Vlad Dracul was an unexpected mashup that required an unnecessary amount of explanation. The beginning for Dracula should be as easy and smooth as an Irish carbomb. Whisky. Guinness. Done. Anyway, didn’t the Lore podcast already cover Drac’s origin tale?
Garlands of garlic and fangs of thanks to both NetGalley and 47North for the ARC. And hey, Masello… I’m truly a fan. Looking forward to your next book.