Review: ‘The Atherton Vampire’ by Lynne Cantwell

The Atherton Vampire by [Lynne Cantwell]

Genre: Vampire fantasy

Author: Lynne Cantwel has been writing fiction since the second grade. Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master’s degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. She is also a contributing author at Indies Unlimited. She lives near Washington, DC.

Appraisal: Nosferatu (the movie) scared the bejazus out of me at an early age. Imprinted on my hind brain forever is the image of the ghoulish shadow thrown onto the wall of the staircase as the creature creeps upwards, towards the bedroom of his beloved victim. Thereafter I came to terms with vampires as scary but comedic entertainment through dear Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She sure got through ‘em, with her trusty stake and a sharp one-liners. I mention all this to show that I can go either way with vampires.

There is romance in the novel, and the story isn’t really dark, so I have been pondering what genre this occupies. You can judge the result of my deliberations for yourself if you give the book a whirl.

This vampire tale kept me on the edge of my seat whenever the vampire was on stage as I examined every utterance for a careless invitation to step inside, and occasionally shouted at the Kindle in my hand ‘don’t look into his eyes!’. So tension is kept high.

There is, however, rather little staking – without which the vampire genre inevitably feels a little thin. Reasoning with a vampire, with any expectation of not ending up with a sore neck and an aversion to daylight, seems to this reader to be a fool’s game. It’s all about the catching and the biting, with vampires, isn’t it? Cantwell does, however, give something of the story of the vampire in history and its transmogrification into a fiction staple. This she does through one of her engaging narrators, Callie Dailey – a local TV news anchor, very much in the Tess Showalter mould (see the Magic series). She has the Cantwellian, spunky heroine  ‘come on, what’s the worst that can happen?’ approach to danger, and Gretchen the video operator follows gamely at her heels.

The second narrator is, however, more fun even than the ever-inquisitive reporter and her sidekick. Kamen functions under a glamour laid upon him by his master. He is the magical factotum of Jerome, the Atherton vampire, and through Kamen’s glum narrative we are given a quite different slant on events. Kamen is rather like Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker’s Guide, but with wings. And better at catching rats at need. Kamen has a favourite line: “if a creature of stone could feel [insert emotion], then I would feel it now.” For dogged goodness, which he constantly downplays, Kamen is without doubt the most appealing character in the novel. He considers himself dull. But he is not. The vampire gets a sense of civic duty (although I still don’t trust him), the reporter gets a boyfriend, but Kamen gets a soul. Nice.

As ever, it is the cast of characters which invigorate this new novel of Cantwell’s. She gives each one breadth, depth and life (even the dead ones …). The pages turn briskly.

This review was originally prepared for ‘Big Al & Pals’. I received a complimentary book file for that purpose.


Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

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