Worth Their Weight in Blood by Carole Jahme, Mira Publishing House CIC, p/b, £8.50/Kindle, £3.91, Website
Reviewed by Dave Brzeski
This one had been lurking in the BFS review pile since 2012 when I decided to rescue it. Carole Jahme is a broadcaster, science writer and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is also a psychologist specialising in the evolution of empathy, communication, sex differences and personality. Jahme’s popular science book, ‘Beauty and the Beasts: Woman, Ape and Evolution’ was published by Virago in 2000 and has been translated into several languages. Mira publishing specialise, so their website tells us, in “intelligent reads”.
The cover, it has to be said, is dreadful in a way that only a literary publisher could get away with. Thankfully, the book is much, much better. It’s not easy, these days, to put a new spin on vampires, but Carole Jahne manages it. The supernatural is dispensed with in favour of treating vampires as a genetic, evolutionary offshoot of Home Sapiens. It works very well, for the most part, and makes for a truly fascinating read. I really liked the concept that a group of altruistic vampires were working for the betterment of mankind, by trying to wipe out AIDS and other blood-related diseases.
I did have a few gripes, however. The main one being how long it took the protagonist, Scarlet Fox, to realise that she was dealing with vampires. The evidence is laid on thick throughout the book, but the possibility doesn’t even enter her mind—even as a ridiculous idea, quickly dismissed—until the chimp she looks after and studies as part of her new job tells her! Carole Jahne goes to a lot of trouble to work out the scientific origins of her vampires, and does an exemplary job of it. She rejects most of the supernatural lore, however, she wants to use the idea that vampires don’t show any reflection in mirrors as a metaphor for self-reflection, so she has to keep that in. Since her scientific background doesn’t cover anything that might provide any explanation for that, she simply has Scarlet never question it. The same goes for vampires not being able to enter a home without an invitation. I also found some of the protracted ethical/philosophical discussions between Scarlet and the alpha vampire, Hunter, tended to drag on to the detriment of the story.
These are minor complaints, though, in what may be the best vampire book I’ve read in a long time. There’s lots of potential for a sequel. Can the altruistic vampires rebuild? Will we find out more about the ancient, powerful boy-vampire, Roman?
I’ve probably revealed more about the plot in this review than is my habit, but it’s difficult to discuss it at all without doing so. I checked existing reviews, and the information I reveal is already out there, so hopefully I won’t be accused of spoilerism.