cover image Seance for a Vampire

Seance for a Vampire

Fred Saberhagen. Tor Books, $21.95 (285pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85562-8

In a confection featuring both Rumania's most famous legend and England's greatest detective, a stolid prose style could have been a virtue, an understated elegance. Yet the two voices of this novel--Prince Dracula's and Dr. Watson's, narrating events that befell Sherlock Holmes--are virtually indistinguishable and far too plodding to spice up a rather drab story. It is 1903, and Holmes has been engaged to investigate the drowning death of Louisa Altamont, fiancee of the young American journalist Martin Armstrong. During a seance conducted by the sister-brother team of Sarah and Abraham Kirkaldy, Louisa appears--and Holmes vanishes from sight. Meanwhile, Vladimir Kulakov, a pirate hanged in London 38 years earlier, has made a startling reappearance in St. Petersburg. Watson quickly enlists the aid of Prince Dracula, here Holmes's vampire cousin, to find Holmes and put matters to rights. Saberhagen (the Berserker series, The Holmes - Dracula Files ) intertwines his invented characters with existing literary personalities to an empty, if pleasant, effect: none of the made-up figures seems more than a caricature, although Sarah Kirkaldy's affair with Dracula does have its moments. Ardent Holmes and/or vampire fans may enjoy seeing their heroes in new situations, but others are advised to read the originals. (June)