Horror and haute couture
Jay Daniel Thompson
The Blood Countess
by Tara Moss
Pan Macmillan, $26.99 pb, 398 pp, 9781405040143
The Blood Countess is the latest novel by author and media identity Tara Moss. The book promises to be the first in a series about Pandora English, a fashion journalist who socialises with the undead.
The novel begins with the recently orphaned Pandora’s arrival at the New York apartment owned by her great-aunt Celia. The latter looks much younger than her eighty-plus years, never appears in the daylight, and has a strong aversion to garlic. Pandora notices weird, ghostly creatures moving around her apartment building. Pandora’s worst fears about her new city are confirmed when – as part of her job for a magazine that (coincidentally) bears her name – she is assigned to investigate a beauty cream known as ‘BloodofYouth’. This cream is the brainchild of ‘entrepreneurial vampires’ who include the ‘centuries-old celebrity murderess’ Elizabeth Bathory.
Moss recycles countless vampire clichés. Her novel’s title could have been lifted from a 1970s Hammer Studios chiller. The book’s analogy between vampirism and corporate greed is as decrepit as Dracula; ditto the analogy between vampirism and vanity. Yet I suspect Moss is less concerned with subverting popular culture conventions than she is with paying a playful homage to vampire literature and cinema. The book’s humour is broad, and some of the characters are well written. Pandora is infinitely more likeable than Bella, the overly serious female protagonist of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. The wonderfully camp and decadent Bathory appears to be modelled on Delphine Seyrig’s portrayal of this historical figure in the cult film Daughters of Darkness (1971). I was disappointed that Bathory (like the fanged supermodel Athanasia) appears only briefly in this instalment.
Moss’s publishers describe The Blood Countess as ‘True Blood meets The Devil Wears Prada’. This description is accurate. The book is a lightweight and fitfully amusing blend of horror and haute couture.