Friday, January 1, 2010

The Dracula Dossier by James Reese

The Dracula Dossier presents a possible reality where author Bram Stoker could have derived his inspiration for Dracula. It's a fictionalized reality full of historically accurate people, relationships, and events. A Gothic mystery complete with ancient Egyptian deities, animal sacrifices, possession, and murder.

The story is told through letters, newspaper clippings, and Bram Stoker's journal. All three elements nicely combine to present a complete record of events for the reader. Stoker takes great pains to use his journal as a place to record events as they were witnessed rather than incorporate a lot of personal observations and speculations. Because of this, the reader can feel like their getting an account of something that actually happened (which it could have) rather than a story.

The initial motive of the book is to open a window into the life of Bram Stoker. We learn of him through his own words and actions. We meet his family and his closest of friends. We get to see what his day job in the theater was like. Reese, however, inserts a secondary story by setting this window up against the murderous escapades of Jack the Ripper. What if Bram Stoker was somehow involved in that great mystery? What if he played a role in Jack the Ripper's own tale? So little is known about what actually happened during these murders, that the time period is ideal for speculation. Jack the Ripper could have tormented people beyond those he murdered - and Bram Stoker could have easily come into contact with such an insane murder.

I found this story engaging and fully-developed. All the characters felt as real in this scenario as they would in their own autobiographies (and they almost all existed.) Using real events and real people to generate a fictionalized story about what might have happened during a famous time in London's history brings this period to life in an extremely tangible way while treating the reader to "inside" information about a well-known author. The Dracula Dossier is a suspenseful novel much like an adventure of Sherlock Holmes' only Reese never disproves the fantastic with science, leaving the reader to decide on their own what might have really happened.

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