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by Michael Gregorio
St Martin's Minotaur, October 2010
455 pages
ISBN: 0312625022

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In this day and age, we take vampires for what they are fascinating, terrifying, but in the end, entirely fictional.

Imagine then, living in a time when people lived in real fear of vampires, or the undead. In UNHOLY AWAKENING, the authors portray an era steeped in superstition. In the early 1800s, in Napoleonic Prussia, a wave of terror sweeps through the town of Lotingen after a young woman is found dead, with strange bite marks on her neck. The peasants arm themselves against the vampires by sprinkling thorn branches on the ground, putting up crosses made of straw and nailing dead rats to their homes. They also charge the cemetery, hoping to drive wooden stakes through the dead.

It's up to Magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis, who does not believe in vampires or the undead, to uncover who killed the woman. In doing so, the married Stiffeniis finds himself strongly attracted to Emma Rimmele, on whose property the body was found and who townspeople blame for the murder. As he investigates, a French official from Stiffeniis' past turns up, Colonel Serge Lavedrine, who in turn seems attracted to Stiffeniis' wife, Helena. Lavedrine orders Stiffeniis to travel with him to the nearby town of Marienburg, where two French soldiers have been killed and a third attacked in similar fashion their jugular veins severed. Lavedrine does not believe in vampires either, but asks Stiffeniis: "Nobody returns to suck the life from the living. But if these stories persist, there must be a reason behind them. There must be somebody who keeps the myth alive. Otherwise, why have people believed it for so long?"

Eventually, Stiffeniis and Lavedrine, with the help of Helena, answer this question, as they discover who is behind the killings. But the most interesting part of UNHOLY AWAKENING is not necessarily the whodunit, but the journey through a historical period when legends and superstitions were rampant. The authors also bring to life a time when Prussians lived, and chafed, under French occupation. This is the fourth book in a series written by Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio, a husband and wife team writing as Michael Gregorio. In this one, they've written a compelling and haunting historical mystery.

Lourdes Venard is a newspaper editor in Long Island, N.Y.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, October 2010

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