Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty

Joseph Barkeley is from Chicago, brought here as a child after being orphaned in Romania. He deals in rare books and manuscripts and does some authentication work on the side.  He receives a call from Arthur Ardelean who asks Joseph to authenticate and purchase the original draft, including notes, of Bram Stokers's novel Dracula. The work is arranged through an intermediary as the purchaser wants total anonymity.

But just who is really employing him? With an offer of money too good to turn down, Barkeley travels to Romania. The buyer is to donate the manuscript and notes to the museum in Dracula's castle in Romania. Before leaving, Barkeley is given a "special gift" from the buyer so the buyer will recognize him. The gift? An ornate silver cross with a red gemstone. Before leaving, Barkely contacts Mara Sadov, another book collector. She is an expert on vampires and tell Barkeley that to do this is to invite the undead into his life.  She then tells him what he will need to know in order to survive. Joseph's brother, Bernhardt, a catholic priest tells Joseph not to go.

Barkeley examines the documents, authenticates them and completes the purchase. The book was published in 1897, The notes date from 1890 and indicate the current published book was not the first edition. The first one had an epilogue and had a different ending. All the first printings were destroyed in a warehouse fire shortly after being printed. In Romania Barkeley is met by Lucian Blaga. Lucian is to help Joseph deal with the  "master", the man who actually bought the documents. Strange things happen to Joseph while there: he gets attacked by what he is sure is a dog until it runs away on 2 feet, people have red eyes and someone is talking to him telepathically.

The master tells Joseph that in order to complete the transaction he needs to find a grave that is mentioned in the original manuscript. When Joseph leads him to the wrong site, he tells Joseph that both he and his brother "owe him." Joseph then realizes why his father murdered his mother and burned her body before killing himself.

Joseph's financial deal now turns into a deal to save his life. His remaining time in Romania is spent just trying to placate the master and live long enough to get home.

The author, Royce Prouty, is a first time author and he did well with this book. Fast paced, the book moves through the dawning awareness of his past and precarious future that Joseph now realizes is his reality.

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