Dark Pursuits – Tony Evans

When I started reading this, I realized it had eight ratings on Goodreads, averaging 3.25. And I noticed that its publisher, Endeavour Press, gave it five stars. Which did not bode well. At all.

It’s an interesting idea for a book, picking up after Dracula and following what happens to these people who have had such extraordinary adventures. Here, Jonathan Harker and Mina are married, and he’s an up-and-coming lawyer … whose reputation as a slayer of monsters has spread, and who receives requests for help from those enmeshed in their own gothic novel plots.

But the language and storytelling style worked for Bram Stoker. It was, after all, his native tongue, so to speak. It’s more of a challenge to a 21st century writer to pull it off; when a contemporary writer says someone “thanked G-d”, it looks like a typo, not Victorian prissiness. I didn’t notice any blatant anachronisms, though, which is saying something – but it wasn’t entirely convincing. You need an ear for the rhythm of a period’s language – I honestly don’t know if it’s something you either have or not, or if you can develop it; I begin to think it’s the former, because of all the examples of the have nots.

One quibble, which is something I’ve shaken my head over in things like Sherlock Holmes, is the whole “this is a highly confidential matter which … okay, I’ll talk about it in front of Watson” thing; here, though, it’s worse, because people keep telling Jonathan things “on condition that the source of my information remained secret: a condition which I am sure you will honour” – and before you can blink he’s back home telling his wife and friends everything.

There were other complaints – like the scene where Harker (I think) overhears something but can’t identify the speakers … and then a couple of pages he names both people. Or the fact that one story – because this is a collection, not a novel – centers on a man’s fear that after his death his collection of antiquities would be broken up and sold off, and so he writes a bizarre will… when I would have thought that a specific and iron-clad will with detailed stipulations would have prevented what he was afraid of. I don’t know.

I stopped reading, not because it was so incredibly bad but because I just didn’t care anymore. And yes, as another Amazon reviewer said, the ARC needed a great deal of work.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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