The Dracula Dossier: A Novel of Suspense
In London, 1888, the Jack the Ripper murders occurred. In 1897, Bram Stoker wrote his famous novel, Dracula. In The Dracula Dossier, James Reese asks readers: What if the two events were connected? The Dracula Dossier purports to be a record, kept by Stoker himself, detailing the fabulous, gruesome events of 1888. It begins by setting the scene, describing a Stoker utterly disillusioned with his life- stuck in a loveless marriage, worked like a slave by a demanding master, and left on the sidelines, watching as his writer friends gain fame and fortune. Into this mix comes Francis Tumblety, sent to Stoker by their mutual friend, Thomas Henry Hall Caine, and an initiation into the Golden Dawn that goes awry. When the Jack the Ripper murders begin, Stoker and his friends must decide what to do, and how to stop what they believe thay may have helped start. As they plan a course of actions, the bodies begin to accumulate . . .The case of Jack the Ripper is one of the most famous unsolved crimes of our time, and, as such, has inspired a number of books (fiction and non-fiction alike) movies, and graphic novels. With The Dracula Dossier, James Reese combines some of the typical elements, such as secret societies and hidden agendas, with some less common ones, such as the theater and literary world. Instead of implicating the royal family, as so many other authors have done, Reese focuses on the literati, going so far as to suggest that Dracula itself was inspired by Stoker's personal involvement in the murders. I enjoyed the novelty of this, along with the many literary references thus included- in fact, this book has inspired me to go out and read more stuff by the Wildes, because I was so takem by their characters. The characters are, in general, reasonably well-fleshed out, making it easy for the reader to stay interested in their struggles. The book is also written in the format of a journal, with letters and news clippings mixed in, which worked well both for the narrative style and for historical verisimilitude- readers of Dracula will be familiar with Stoker's use of the epistolary format.While I don't get the impression that Reese is trying to advocate a new pet theory (which is not the case with many of the other Ripper stories), I do get the distinct impression that this book was meticulously researched. Every fact that I looked up matched his claims, and the book is peppered with explanatory footnotes. This level of accuracy made it very easy to fall under the spell of the book; so much so, in fact, that I found myself forgetting that it was fiction at times, and thinking that I would have to look some of the relevant details up.But, of course, what everyone really wants to know is: Was it a good book? Was it enjoyable to read? To those questions, I would give a qualified yes. In my past, I was a bit vampire-obsessed, so I am very familiar with Draula and its kin. Also, although I'm not very interested in mass murderer lore, I seem to find myself dragged along to Jack the Ripper stuff on a distressingly regular basis, so I'm also reasonably knowledgeable about that. I mention this because I actually think that my level of familiarity added a lot to the book. Knowing that Reese referred to many of the people directly involved in the real case added realism, as did his amazing weaving together of historical details from the murders with the plot elements of the book. More than anything else, I am amazed by how well-executed that aspect of the book was. Someone who knew less about the real history, however, might not see that or care about it. The story itself was a little bit slow to start, and I do think that the author gave a bit more background than was truly necessary. Once the story picked up, it was a gripping read, but the action proper didn't really commence until over halfway through the book. That's not to say that the beginning was bad, or even boring- it just wasn't terribly riveting either.In general, I would strongly recommend this book to someone interested in the Jack the Ripper story, historical crime theories, or similar genres. If you liked books/graphic novels (or movies, since both of these have been adapted for film) like From Hell or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, you should definitely check this out. If you're squeamish, be forewarned that Reese includes a number of pretty grisly descriptions. Then again, it's a book about the Jack the Ripper murders, so really, what do you expect? If your answer is rainbows and kittens, I don't know what to tell you.