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Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty

Stoker's Manuscript is Royce Prouty's debut novel.  It was very good, and it has everything: a coded message in a literary classic, mystery, intrigue, history, an unusual old world setting, a 'treasure' hunt, a family history/tragedy shrouded in mystery PLUS VAMPIRES thrown in as a bonus.  Incidentally this was the last book I read... I think I finished it around the end of July, and I'm currently (still) between books because I haven't yet started a new one.  What's depressing is that I have a pile of good ones at home that look really promising, and I don't know which to read first is part of my problem.

Joseph Barkeley, a modestly successful purveyor of rare, collectible, and antique books in Chicago, is contacted out of the blue one day by an agent acting on behalf of an anonymous buyer who wishes to acquire a rare manuscript that's recently come up for sale in Philadelphia.  This is the eponymous manuscript of the book's title and, readers, if you are ever contacted by an agent acting on behalf of an anonymous buyer, you should hang up that phone and run for the hills because nothing good will come of that transaction.

Bram Stoker's original manuscript including the prologue and epilogue that were excluded from the second printing is the object of desire of the mysterious buyer who insists on complete anonymity and secrecy.  When Joseph traces the origins of the call back to Romania, the land of his birth, a land in which he and his brother spent some bleak years in an orphanage before being taken to live in a convent in Chicago, some warning bells go off. But apparently not loud enough for Joseph to hear even after his brother warns him that nothing good waits for him in Romania and that it is the one place to which he should not return.  But the commission offered on the manuscript is too lucrative to pass up, so Joseph agrees to the buyer's terms of contract.

When Joseph accompanies the manuscript's delivery to the buyer in Romania, he realizes too late the missteps he's taken when the buyer essentially holds him prisoner in the ancient castle he calls home.  In order to earn his freedom, Joseph must engage in a delicate balancing act in which he assists in decoding the instructions hidden in the excised prologue and epilogue.  The buyer believes these instructions will lead him to the burial sites of various members of his family--the family of the ancient, sinister Draculs.  Joseph quickly realizes he is engaged in a battle against an ancient foe and that the battle will have brutal costs to him and those he holds dear.

The moral of this story: when a client wants you to help him figure out where his dead relatives are buried so he can dig them up, TURN THE JOB DOWN.  It isn't worth the aggravation and danger to your life or your loved ones.  I highly recommend this book for fans of a good literary mystery and those who like vampire fiction.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Comments

Carmen said…
Wow, Ms. Angie, this book sounds fascinating.
BTW, why don't you start to read from your pile with the shortest book, or thinner one, that's usually what I do when in that dilemma.
Regards.

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