Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cursed in the Act: Review

Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland is the first in a new historical mystery series featuring Bram Stoker and his trusty side-kick Harry Rivers. Basing his premise on the fact that Stoker served as a business manager for London's Lyceum Theatre, Buckland gives the soon-to-be author of Dracula an assistant who can help him get to the bottom of mysterious doings in Victorian England.

Their first adventure takes place in 1881 and begins with Henry Irving, star and owner of the Lyceum, being poisoned on the opening night of Hamlet. Someone has put something nasty in Irving's lemonade and it is only the actor's cast-iron constitution and insistence that the show must go on that keeps opening night from being a disaster. But the horrible events continue--Irving's understudy is killed by a fast-moving carriage, a severed head comes tumbling onstage when a backdrop is unrolled, and actress Ellen Terry's young son is kidnapped--all in an effort to shut down the show. The police are making efforts to track down the evil-doers, but not fast enough to suit Stoker. He and Harry begin an investigation of their that leads them into the opium dens and dockyard warehouses of London and brings them into contact with a man who believes the power of voodoo may work if straight-forward criminal acts fail.

This is more of an action/adventure novel than a straight mystery. The twist ending may provide a bit of a mystery as far as the identity of the culprit, but alert readers (or old hands in the mystery field) probably won't be taken in. It seems to me that the emphasis is on the action--the near-constant assault on the Lyceum by the villains--and on the possible occult connections. A quick and easy read--requiring no heavy thinking. The period detail and research into Stoker's background and the ways of the occult do make for a rich historical reading experience. It was nice to settle into the Victorian era and just go along for the ride. Three stars.


J F Norris said...

I think I saw this either in a store recently or in an online ad. Anyway, sounds intriguing and if the CPL bought a copy I'd read it. But I'm not sure I'll plunk down money for a new copy.

Bev Hankins said...

John...I did not plunk money down. This was a library read. I need a certain amount of new releases for one of my zillion challenges.

(Pretty much the only time I plunk money down is for vintage books...a newer model is a very rare thing.)

fredamans said...

Can you believe I am still reading Bram Stoker's Dracula for the last couple years?! I had forgotten about it really...
I wonder if this is my thing. I like it requires no heavy thinking. :-)
Great review!