Publication: NZ BookLovers
Described as an homage to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Pierced Heart, by British author Lynn Shepherd, is one of those novels that has followed the recent popular trend of re-visiting a great work of the Western literary canon. Dracula – the novel that defined the vampire tradition in literature – does provide a framework for Shepherd’s plot, where similar tropes and even character names are used, but what this deliberate “homage” to Dracula mostly does is set up reader expectations.
There is the young handsome man (private Detective Charles Maddox) who has been sent “abroad” from London to investigate a reclusive aristocrat in an isolated, foreign castle (this time in Austria, not Transylvania), where he finds himself confronted with unexplainable things, including newly dug graves, large menacing hounds, bats, and some very mistrustful peasants living adjacent to the castle. The reclusive foreigner himself, a Baron Von Reisenberg, is suitably pale, avoids the sunlight and food, and has a habit of creeping around the castle looking suspicious. And then there are the unexplainable small cuts on Maddox’s throat. And just as the reader thinks, “oh I know where this is heading” the author does a turn which takes the story into a new territory, subverting reader expectations and providing a new twist to an old narrative.