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Parish Damned by Lee Thomas

28/11/2005. Contributed by Sue Davies

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pub: Telos. 79 page enlarged paperback. Price: 7.99 (UK), $ 8.95 (US), $11.95 (CAN). ISBN: 1-84583-040-7.

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There's a sickness around and one man knows the awful truth behind it.

Every few years, a visitor who ties up his boat in Coral Harbour brings the sickness and when he leaves some people are dead but at least it stops. This time it's different and the sickness is about to become much worse. The one man who knows the cause is powerless to prevent it spreading. As the memories of the narrator are gradually stripped away, he reveals the true depth of his knowledge and personal guilt. Reaching back into his personal history is as painful to him as watching friends die and we are forced to share his fear and despair when he realises that he must make a last stand against the creatures he has helped create. Descriptions of the attacks are almost clinically precise and rather gruesome so don't expect a happy conclusion to this very dark tale.

Lee Thomas creates a powerfully poetic story about a new kind of vampires using only 79 pages. As the story is gradually revealed, the true horror of the plague and how it creates the undead creatures who live out beyond the reef becomes clear. This is not a story to read alone in the house and certainly not late at night. Thomas manages to make an every day sort of fishing town a repository of grim memories and sleepless nights.

An ideal antidote to the prettification of vampires as o-negatively challenged, this is a return to the gothic tradition of the real blood-suckers. A very enjoyable short read with bite!

Sue Davies

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