cover image Out of the House of Life

Out of the House of Life

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Tor Books, $19.95 (446pp) ISBN 978-0-312-93126-1

Learned, lustrous-haired Madelaine de Montalia, dead over a century but reborn to the vampire life, joins an expedition of French antiquarians to excavate Egyptian ruins at Thebes, 1825-1828, in this ponderous novel, the seventh featuring the Count of Saint-Germain, the immortal vampire ( Hotel Transylvania ). From offstage, the Count sends letters to his adored Madelaine, recalling his thousand-year stint in ancient Egypt when he labored first as a captive demon (chained in Judea and given to Queen Hatshepsut) in the House of Life--a hospital/mortuary--then as slave, servant, physician and, finally, as ``Sanh Zhrman,'' high priest of Imhotep. Madelaine imbibes the fluids of men she visits in dreams as well as (discreetly and in the flesh) those of her lover, the blue-eyed German Dr. Falke. Meanwhile she is besieged by lecherous misogynists and by the bribery of local officials, the theft and sale of choice treasures, the blatant plagiarisms that are all part of the game of archeology. Unfortunately, these promising story materials founder in a plotless narrative, talkily expressed in pseudo-Victorian style. (Dec.)