1.9.19

THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST, by Deanna Raybourn

Theodora Lestrange shudders at the thought she might have to marry, have children, sit by the fire and embroider as she waits for her husband to come home. This is the normal trajectory of the Victorian woman and, now that her well-meaning but respectably poor brother-in-law is her caretaker, it becomes a real threat. When an invitation comes from an old school friend to visit her in Transylvania, Theodora doesn't think twice. She's got her Get Out of Edinburgh card in hand.
The farther east she goes, the more atmospheric and wild the country. She arrives at Castle Dragulescu at day's end and her old friend Cosmina is delighted to welcome her. The elderly, ailing Countess Dragulescu, Cosmina's guardian, introduces her to her arrestingly handsome son Andrei, Count Dragulescu. Theodora is instantly attracted to the enigmatic man who, she quickly discovers, Cosmina is afraid of. The count knows every ploy in the seducer's arsenal and finds the lovely visitor susceptible.
Local lore and the peasants on the count's land believe in strigoi - vampires - and Theodora finds persuasive evidence they may actuaslly exist. As she and Alexei grow closer, his behavior seems more and more odd. A midnight exorcism involving chants and holy water and wooden stakes in the castle crypt - suitably horrific - ups the ante. Why does Alexei's long-deceased father looks so fresh and lively? Who killed the serving girl, whose lifeless body has two puncture wounds on her bosom? Should she believe Alexei's cool claims of indifference?
Matters come to a head in an unexpected moment which, in my zeal to do no spoilers, you will have to discover for yourself in the book.
Very readable, with a feisty heroine and a suitably surprising villain. Very Gothic. Five stars. Raybourn is a great writer of romantic suspense.

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