By Frank Creed
Horror newcomer Sue Dent’s 2006 vampire and werewolf novel, Never Ceese, nailed down a few accolades of which you may have heard: short listed for the coveted Bram Stoker award, and named American Christian Fiction Writers book club choice of the month in May of 2007. How does a novelist top that?
By writing a superior sequel. Everyone knows that sequels have a bad reputation for falling short of an original concept. Especially for a new novelist, proving you’re not a fluke, that you can do it again, is a load on one’s back. Truly talented authors start strong and get even better, of which J.K. Rowling is a case study. Sue Dent is one of those writers. Never Ceese showcased her natural gifts for fun characters and suspenseful plot. Forever Richard is all that and more.
Synopsis without spoilers . . .
The saga of redemption and spiritual triumph that readers enjoyed in Never Ceese continues in Forever Richard. Cassie Felts, graduate student and reluctant believer of such things as vampires and werewolves, couldn’t be happier for Richard and Ceese Porter. Their curses lifted and after hundreds of years apart, they can now celebrate being brother and sister once more. Even Rodney, Cassie’s college roommate and former nemesis, shares Cassie’s relief. But will the faith that saved Richard and Ceese be enough to defeat the new evil that threatens them all?
Cassie learns that Dr. Clayton Henderson, the corrupt stem-cell researcher, has acquired the vampire’s curse and has managed to transfer it to Rodney’s troubled, drug-addicted buddy Josh. Addict or vampire, Cassie can see Josh isn’t handling his new cravings for blood any better than he did his old habit. Their best hope seems to be taking Josh to Richard’s isolated country estate in England. There, Josh can learn to temper his desire to curse another while they try to figure out how to deal with the impossible-to-kill Dr. Henderson.
Plans twist when they find a new vampire inhabiting Richard’s castle, and a malevolent werewolf stalking Ceese. A long-lost relative shows up packing a sawed-off shotgun and an ancient knife which he claims has supernatural powers. Will the faith that redeemed two lost souls before be enough to overcome the wicked forces that now threaten to destroy them all?
Sue Dent’s creativity and sense of humor sparkle in Forever Richard. The plot twists and turns, surprises popping at readers from around corners. Items and people are usually not as they appear. Sue should be proud of having crafted a fun and entertaining read for all levels of readers that is still fully a horror novel.
Forever Richard’s bio-ethics theme is strong. What humankind can do always runs in advance of what we ought to do, and stem-cell researcher Dr. Clayton Henderson leaps moral bounds quick as a buck clearing a picket fence. His breaches of ethics aren’t about curing sick people at the expense of others’ lives, but the black-and-white mad scientist type of villainy. Henderson is an antagonist without depth, but is a common enemy whom many can unite to oppose—the kind of bad-guy a reader hopes to see destroyed as quickly as Parkinson’s disease.
Like Dracula, Forever Richard is respectful of the Christian worldview, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t drive stakes through the hearts of even more literary awards than did Never Ceese.