Katherine Armstrong has worked in publishing for over six years. She is a crime fiction Editor for an independent publishing company in London.
I feel that I should state upfront that this isn’t my usual kind of book. While I enjoyed Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian (and will admit under duress to reading Twilight), I’m a bit over the whole vampire thing.
However, that being said, I found myself really getting into Marcus Sedgwick’s first foray into adult fiction, A Love Like Blood. With more than a passing nod to Dracula and even Le Fanu (who gets a mention along with Stoker), A Love Like Blood is a brooding, slow burn read that maintains your interest.
Sedgwick writes brilliantly about the growing paranoia of Charles Jackson who, during leave in Paris at the tail end of the war, may or may not have witnessed a murder where the assailant appears to drink a young woman’s blood. Haunted by this spectre, Jackson returns to ‘normal’ life and puts it all behind him until, ten years later, he is again in Paris, this time as a young (-ish) doctor presenting a paper and he sees the ‘vampire’ once more in the company of a young woman, who he falls heavily for and befriends.
Charles is an innocent in many ways as his success with women is very limited, and his friendship with this young woman, Marian, is at times painfully awkward, which endears him to the reader while reminding us all of our own awkward moments with the opposite sex . . . I would have welcomed more scenes between them though. I wanted to know more about Marian and their relationship would benefit from deeper exploration, as it appears very slight for the intensity that Charles feels for her.
Sedgwick is very good at playing with the reader’s grasp of the situation. As the narrative progresses Charles becomes obsessed with finding Verovkin, the man he thinks is a vampire, and Sedgwick skilfully leaves the reader in doubt as to who to believe. Is Charles an unreliable narrator? Is he imagining a conspiracy that isn’t there, or is he right that malevolent forces are working against him? Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
Blood is the motif that flows (no pun intended) through the narrative and connects events in one-way or another. Charles is a specialist in haemophilia, Marian is writing a PhD on blood in Dante and blood oozes through the writing – birth, death, sex, the very nature of humanity – as Sedgwick’s tale comes to a close. A likeable addition to novels like Richard T. Kelly’s The Possessions Of Doctor Forrest that put a new spin on well-known and well-loved tales.