Amber Quill Press
Electronic 1-59279-308-8 & Trade Paperback 1-59279-818-7
How do you get a pre-teen to read a book? Hand him a book about mayhem, murder, and vampires. It helps to include a likable character similar to the reader. That's what you have with Markusen's young adult horror tale, the Haunted House of the Vampire.
Kenny, a well-mannered child, is interested only in a nightlong marathon of watching classic horror flicks while his parents are out at a social event. A trip to the basement to check the laundry brings up the idea of opening the mysterious door. There was always such mass of items in front of the closed basement door that it tickled Kenny's curiosity. After a momentary struggle with warped wood, Kenny pries the door open only to discover an ominously chained box. Painstakingly, he loosens the chains and lifts the cover to reveal a corpse-white being. Scared witless, he runs back upstairs.
The thought of some bizarre mannequin in his basement draws Kenny back. Much to his horror and shock, the mannequin wakes up and declares himself to be a vampire, a good vampire who needs Kenny's help. His better judgment warns him off such a strange scheme; after all, he has never heard of a good vampire. Still Kenny finds himself hiding from his parents the fact that a blood-sucking fiend resides in his basement. When the local police visit to track down the animal murderer, Kenny still hides his new vampire friend, Victor.
It may be that Victor exerts vampiric power over Kenny or the tale of him being cruelly murdered by hired thugs stirs up some sympathy. Victor, besides being an honorable vampire who refuses to drink human blood, is also a man on a mission. He was murdered by the mayor and his henchman for his plan to go public with an internal corruption scam. If that wasn't bad enough, while planning his court case he was attacked by an unknown vampire. In the city of Cooperstown, the corrupt mayor, his thugs, and the unknown vampire still walk the streets. Victor's job is to expose the corruption of the mayor that he was unable to do while alive. As for the unknown vampire, he's still around, very aware that Victor now stalks the night. Add to the chaos well-meaning officials who are determined to hunt down the sicko who murders cows and deer. Then there's the issue of Victor being attracted to human blood: Kenny's blood.
The Haunted House of the Vampire started out pretty quickly with Kenny being drawn to the closed door in the basement. The fact that Victor was a good vampire bent on civic-minded purposes threw this reader for a loop--and apparently Kenny too. The author displayed his knowledge of vampire lore several times in the book by having Victor, the vampire, explain these tidbits to Kenny. The relationship had a quirky feel to it as if the vampire was Kenny's grandfather or another kindly gentleman. There was an odd usage of common words that caught my attention, not always in a positive way. Despite my grammarian pickiness, my twelve-year-old loved it.
Reviewed by Morgan Wyatt
© December 2004