The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn
13 April, 2014
Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey mysteries, beginning with Silent in the Grave, has been a quiet hit in these parts and with six volumes in the series, my friends and I are eager to read more. Raybourn’s writing is easy and polished and her love of words evident in the care she takes in crafting her sentences. I also have a penchant for gothic romances and vampires so I was eager to try her debut, The Dead Travel Fast, which features both.
Take one headstrong Scottish woman, unmarried and practical with a talent in crafting stories to frighten impressionable young ladies, a suffocating household and an invitation to visit a school friend who is about to get married in Transylvania. And so Theodora Lestrange travels to meet her friend Cosmina who is staying in bleak Castle Dragul in the high Carpathian mountains, cut off from civilisation by snow and superstition. Here she meets the brooding and handsome Count Andrei Dragulescu, Cosmina’s cousin and fiancé, who fascinates and frightens her and won’t leave her alone. Taking the opportunity to use this experience to start writing her novel, Theodora soon realises that not all is as it seems at Castle Dragul. Why do they warn her not to keep her windows open at night? And why is there a sprig of basil hanging over her windowsill? And what of the strange dreams and ashen features of Cosmina and her aunt? And when one of the maids is found dead and drained of blood, Theodora’s fear crystalises.
I really enjoyed The Dead Travel Fast, which is full of references to classic gothic and Victorian sensation novels, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, which I am sure Raybourn loves. The ending wasn’t as dramatic as I expected but I liked the twist which distinguishes this novel from other classic vampire tales. There was a good mixture of surprise and familiar comfort. That is no mean feat as finding something new to say, in what is fast becoming a crowded genre, is pretty difficult. But I think what elevates this book is the care with which Raybourn crafts her writing. She writes beautifully and her novels really deserve a lot more attention than they get. And yes, maybe some may not think the subject matter may to be serious enough but, as Donna Tartt says, reading should be as much about enjoyment as well as the well crafted sentence. And you get both in The Dead Travel Fast.