Flesh and Blood

Sunday 22 June 2014 by

Flesh and Blood by Daniel Dersch (Translated by Gerald Chapple)


In Flesh and Blood by German author Daniel Dersch, Clare Hagen, a New York journalist, is shocked when her sister is admitted to a mental hospital amid claims that someone is trying to turn her into a vampire. Clare is convinced that it is all a side effect of drugs her sister has been taking but when she goes to meet up with a man her sister has been talking to online about her vampire fears things all start to get a little weird. First the man she met is shot dead in a toilet stall, then her sister disappears and her apartment is destroyed in a raid by several armed men and she survives only through a rescue by a very peculiar stranger.

Clare has to decide who to trust and make some difficult decisions as she does her best to find and save both her sister and her own life as they are hunted down by order of the Vatican.

Flesh and Blood, Daniel Dersch, 47North, Book

Flesh and Blood  was a refreshing read insofar that it left the recent trend of sexy, sparkly vampires mostly behind. The vampires in this book are from the old school of scary and not in the least bit appealing.

When they transform the vampires have eyes like hot coals, mouths full of razor teeth and all traces of humanity are lost in the blood lust – they have no ties with their human past and there is no urge for them to do anything with humans other than use them for dinner.  This makes the whole thing a bit more exciting and meant that the vampires felt like the bad guys that they should be.

Interestingly though it was the humans in the story that were the most disturbing. People go mad for power and it seems like having weaponry in easy reach brings out the crazy in some too. The lead ‘hunter’ in the story was distressingly focussed on his goal and the fact that he wouldn’t think twice about clearing his tracks by killing people made him surprisingly scary. It was the cold matter-of-fact way he could pull a trigger that scared me most.

I do however think that this characteristic was a little overplayed through the sections of the story narrated from his point of view – he constantly seemed to thinking about shooting his partner or some other person so after a while he stopped being quite so scary and just came across as a bit mad.

The lead character, Clare, had a lot of inner turmoil through the book – as you would if you just discovered that your sister is potentially crazy and vampires aren’t the fairy tale you always thought – and whilst a bit of this is good it was rather overwhelming. I finished reading this a couple of days ago and now I come to think of it I can’t remember anything else about Clare other than her constant inner doubts. There wasn’t much else to note about her character so it got a bit wearing by the end of the book.

There were a couple of chapters written from another character’s point of view, telling the history of a character and how things came to be the way they were – for example why the Vatican was hunting them down so doggedly. These chapters were interesting and used the holocaust to impressive effect however they did feel a little info-dump-like. Instead of filtering the information in, it was just conveniently passed over in two or three ‘flash back’ chapters – I found this interrupted the flow of the story a little despite their interesting content.

There was a touch of romance in the book but it wasn’t a lead story-line, and Clare’s lack-of-character made it feel even less significant and almost made it a bit of an annoying sideline as a reader. The twist at the end was quite predictable too – there were a few too many signposts along the way and they all had flashing lights round them so you couldn’t possibly not notice them. (Trust me, I usually miss all the signposts in books and I never know whodunit – if I thought they were obvious then they were really obvious.)

I sort of enjoyed reading Flesh and Blood but the characterisation wasn’t great and the super-short chapters meant that I never really got sucked in to the story – it was all too easy to put down and forget about. Not bad for a holiday read if you want something quick and easy that doesn’t need much thinking about (I read most of it on a yacht in the Caledonian Canal) but not great if you really want something with a bit of bite.

I’d give Flesh and Blood 3.5/5* – the ideas were good but it won’t give you any nightmares and I will probably have forgotten it by this time next month.

You can follow Carole on Twitter: @caroleheidi

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