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The Vampire's Violin

by Michael Romkey

(Del Rey, 294 pages, $6.99, paperback; April 1 2003.)

Dylan Glyndwr (presumably pronounced "Glendower") is a brilliant violinist and a centuries-old vampire -- a rogue vampire, cover scanindeed, because unlike most of his fellows he has no compunction about killing his prey, even revelling in it. He once briefly possessed one of the "Angel" violins -- one of a series of just 13 phenomenally fine instruments made by an 18th-century Italian luthier after blindness had struck him in his old age. Ever since losing that violin, Glyndwr has combed the world seeking another.

Maggie O'Hara is a violin student whose future career seems likely to be blighted by her paralysing stage fright. But then she inherits from her dying grandfather the battered old violin he bought in a devastated Europe during the last days of WWII. It proves, of course, to be an "Angel" -- perhaps the last one left in existence -- and it transforms her from merely a promising tyro into a virtuoso performer. Soon Glyndwr is on her track, and only the friendship of good vampire maestro conductress Maria Rainer and lusty swain Carter Dunne may save her...

The first thing to say about The Vampire's Violin -- the latest in a longish string of vampire novels by Romkey -- is that it's really very nicely written; he has an easy style, elegant without being ostentatious. The second thing is that this is an incredibly slight book: it seems entirely to lack the ambition to be anything other than a throwaway quick read, a modern successor, although more stylishly written than most, to all those countless '60s pulp paperbacks whose titles and authors are now barely remembered. All through the book one tends to be baffled by the conundrum of why an author capable of writing so well should be bothering to waste his time on such an unambitious novel.

This is one for the Romkey fans. Other readers might want to pick it up as an appropriately undemanding companion for a medium-length train journey, a book that, on reaching their destination, they can leave on the seat without qualms.

Review by John Grant.

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