Josh Reynolds is a writer I discovered what must be getting close to two years now, ever since I stumbled upon his blog Hunting Monsters. I've had a chance to read some of his short fiction, but this is the first chance I've had to read something longer than a dozen or so pages.
Dracula Lives! is a blend of horror, noir, spy thriller, urban fantasy, and probably a couple other sub-genres thrown in for good measure. But don't get hung up on labels. Just know this is a fast-paced pulpy adventure that's saturated in dry humor, with more twists per page than I dare count.
Jonas Cream, formerly of Her Royal Highness' Domestic Services in England, is an independent man for hire. Specializing in acquisitions it would seem, as he's tasked, by one of the many mysterious characters he meets while trying to avoid being murdered, with acquiring an especially rare object that's about to go up for auction in Budapest. Lot 49. Sounds innocuous enough, but it turns out to be a highly coveted object and Cream finds himself with more than one adversary out to relieve him of the object by any means necessary.
The cast of characters in this story is remarkably vast given the modest page count, but through the quick pace there were a few scenes where I had trouble keeping track of who was who and who was targeting who. Overall though, it played out to a more satisfying end than some of the other mystery thrillers I've read. I think the dry wit throughout the dialogue helped, as did the winding supernatural conspiracy. I've never gravitated towards the detective and spy novels of old, so throwing in some beastly creatures and a sultry vampire certainly helped sweeten the deal.
But for a book with the title Dracula Lives, there wasn't a whole lot of the bloodsucking icon. It's not a book that channels Bram Stoker, so don't expect that kind of prose or those types of characters. The connection to the legend of Dracula is contained within Lot 49, and while some are out to exploit it, others are sworn to make sure it never sees the light of day--destroyed if possible--and poor Mr. Cream is caught in the middle.
The prose is pulpy, not purple, and once I was a couple of chapters in I caught on to the kind of story I was in for--and it still managed to throw a couple of curve-balls my way. Blending genres can be tricky business, but I think Josh found a good balance with this one. Hopefully, he could match pace or do even better with the sequel he's got in the works.