AN OLD FRIEND OF THE FAMILY review by Ron FortierAN OLD FRIEND OF THE FAMILY
By Fred Saberhagen
Tor Books
207 pages

“An Old Friend of the Family,” was the third in the New Dracula series written by the late Fred Saberhagen (1930-2007). Best known for his Beserker science fiction series, his reimagining of the Dracula legend put forth the concept that Vlad Tepes, the Prince of Wallachia, only became a vampire after he was murdered. In the books, he is the protagonist and the humans bent on his destruction are portrayed as bumbling fools.

This volume was the third in the series and with it he moved the saga to modern times with the descendants of Mina Harker, Dracula’s one true love, living in the suburbs of Chicago (where Saberhagen was born) and coming under the attack of New World vampires hoping to lure the Old Count to America and defeat him.

It is the middle of a brutal Illinois winter and Kate Sutherland is kidnapped party and made into a vampire. Her grandmother Clarissa, Mina Harker’s granddaughter, recalls being told that should she, or her loved ones, ever find themselves in danger, all she had to do is read aloud an ancient Latin chant and help would appear. After Kate’s body is discovered, her younger brother Johnny is then snatched and brutal kidnapped. The old woman, with the help of her remaining granddaughter, Judy, speaks the chant and a few days later Dr. Corday arrives on their doorstep. He is the old friend of the family and though vague and mysterious, it is immediately obvious to Gran and Judy that they have a very powerful ally in this strange old man.

Dr. Corday waste no time investigating the attacks on the Sutherlands and offers his assistant to Joe Hagen, Kate’s detective boyfriend. It is Corday who, upon examining Kate’s body in the morgue before her autopsy, discovers that she is not dead. Rather she’s been turned and he manages to get her out of the morgue and sequesters her in the family mausoleum until he can properly educate her in regards to her new status as one of the undead.

But as the savage blizzard continues to blanket the Windy City and its outlying communities, Corday’s supernatural foes learn of his arrival and double their efforts to capture and destroy him. “An Old Friend of the Family,” is a gripping, fast moving vampire adventure told by a master whose hero is presented in a new light while maintaining his dark appeal. We’d heard of this series often over the years, especially of this particular entry, and are now very glad to have finally read it. If you’re a fan of classic vampire tales, this book will put a huge smile on your face. Just watch out for the fangs.

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