Stake by Kevin J. Anderson
Severn House Publishers, pb,
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Lexi Tarada runs the website HideTruth, an online forum for people to discuss the weird and unexplained, everything from Bigfoot sightings to government coverups. Lexi is open-minded, she hasn’t firmly committed but, to quote the X-Files, she wants to believe. User handle Stoker1897 doesn’t just believe in vampires, he knows they exist and it is his calling to hunt them down and kill them. All Detective Carrow believes is that the morgue is filling up with people who used to work the night shift before someone drove a stake through their heart or cut their head off and filled their mouth with garlic. But who is right, Stoker1897 or Detective Carrow? Lexi doesn’t know, but she needs to find out. What if this is the one time the rumours and conspiracies are right?
Stake is told from three different points of view, Lexi’s, Carrow’s, and Stoker1897 who also calls himself Simon Helsing. It’s also told using flashbacks to Helsing’s life in the army and how he came to believe vampires are real. There are no points of view from a vampire’s point of view. In fact, there is very little evidence, other than circumstantial, to suggest that vampires are real other than what Helsing has gathered. This means the reader is never certain whether Helsing is the hero he thinks himself to be or the serial killer Carrow is convinced he is, and that makes for a really good read.
The story plays out like one of Lexi’s discussions on her forum. For every argument Helsing has that someone is a vampire, a paramedic who only works nights and has, in his opinion, a higher than average number of deaths on route to the hospital, Carrow finds counter-evidence, such as the paramedic’s continual requests to move to the day shift where the call outs are less life threatening. Lexi straddles the middle ground, ready to listen to them both, look at their evidence and make a decision for herself.
If it was just a case of Helsing’s word against Carrow, we would probably side with Carrow pretty quickly, but Helsing is backed by a group of survivalist doomsday preppers, called Bastion, who also believe in vampires. And while Carrow has the coroner verifying the corpses are human, Lexi asks questions that challenge the science, like would we really know what we were looking for in DNA to separate human from vampire?
Stake incorporates characteristics from the vampire genre to play to the reader’s expectations. Lexi is invited to a party of a wealthy, reclusive older man who donates to her website, and her flatmate providers her with a white Victorian lace dress and choker. It creates a strong image of the original vampire stories with the innocent lured into the vampire’s den and is a lot of fun. It adds to the question of the story and what genre it fits in, if we were going to do something as limiting as genre pigeon-holing; is this a vampire or a serial killer horror?
This is a spoiler free review, so I’m not going to tell you. What I will tell you is I really enjoyed this and would not only recommend it to anyone who’ll sit still long enough for me to tell them about it, but read it again myself.