The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula

Roderick Anscombe

Hyperion. $22.95
(paper $6.50)

There are no vampires here.

Laszlo, Count Dracula, is human, a man of ordinary abilities who evolves into a serial killer. Although the title is going to attract vampire lovers, the book has more in common with The Silence of the Lambs than Bram Stoker's Dracula.

This is Laszlo's diary which he begins upon his arrival in Paris as a young medical student. Here he studies syphilitic patients at the hospital and moves self-consciously on the fringes of high society. The first part ends when he kills Stacia, a patient from the hospital with whom he has become obsessed.

The journal continues twenty years later in Hungary, where Laszlo has succeeded the title of Count Dracula on his brother's death. Now he describes his involvement with a radical political group, his efforts to stop an outbreak of typhoid, and his participation in the investigation of the very murders he commits.

Anscombe's writing is easily readable; he does not strain himself trying to imitate Victorian prose. Laszlo's voice in the diary is natural, and the transitions between private musings and narration occur smoothly. However, Anscombe does sometimes violate the day-by-day structure of the diary with hints of what is to happen.

Laszlo himself is not an entirely convincing character. The book is apparently a tragedy, an inevitable downward spiral which Laszlo follows to destruction. But there is no true sense of inevitability; Laszlo welcomes his destiny too much: "There is a part of me which exults in my destruction." Perhaps Anscombe himself has only a slippery grasp on Laszlo; or perhaps, with his background in psychiatry and of working with the criminally insane, Anscombe understands something about Laszlo which he fails to convey.

And, finally, there is the ending, an appropriately abrupt and tangled cliffhanger. Laszlo writes, "If this journal ends here . . . " and it does. But is Anscombe following the dictates of the diary, or does he anticipate a sequel?


This review originally appeared in the November 20, 1994 edition of The Roanoke Times and World-News.

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This review copyright 1994 by Wendy Morris

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