In this supernatural tale, a woman uses her new relationship with a vampire for a business opportunity—selling his blood as a face cream.
Twenty-eight-year-old Jessica Connors is happy to have escaped her Poughkeepsie, New York, roots to work at the Art Fool, a trendy SoHo gallery. She doesn’t care much for Don Meeker, in love with Jessica since high school, but the pendant he gives her is more her style: old but unmistakably valuable. The Gnostic cross also has an unintended consequence, attracting Cortes Del Lago, a vampire for more than a century. A lack of bodily functions—Cortes equates himself with a ghost—renders sex a pointless endeavor. But the vampire willingly shares his blood with Jessica, who reminds Cortes of his long-ago love, Molly O’Hara, and Jessica has no complaints once the regenerative blood hits her skin. She starts collecting it in test tubes and, with financing from gallery owner and Ukrainian billionaire Dimitri Garpov, plans on marketing it as a beauty cream. Detective John Paul Stratton, meanwhile, investigates murders linked by traces of reptile blood at the scenes. He has his theories (a death cult, perhaps?), but with victims tied to Jessica, he certainly thinks she did it—or had someone do it for her. Pollin (Thirty-Two Acres of Paradise: Varian Fry at Air-Bel, 2015, etc.) embraces some vampiric traditions, including blood sucking, stakes, and silver bullets. But a stream-of-consciousness narrative abandons a typical vampire plot. Jessica at a funeral, for example, has an inner debate that moves from various ways of mourning to her changing situation with Cortes, who may be turning human. The author retains this style through shifting perspectives, an accompanying interchangeability that unfortunately doesn’t offer characters much distinction. But Pollin wisely employs a good deal of humor to tackle quite a bit of heavy material, like gay artist Tancredo Zaru, whose genuine expression of spirituality is a potentially blasphemous sculpture, Plop Christ (it’s as gaudy as it sounds). Injecting so much comedy in the wry tale ensures that cynical views of religion and death are never outrightly offensive, and sequences like a tearful Molly correcting her dying love’s grammar are a hoot.
Vampirism is simply another obstacle for greedy and often indifferent characters in this irreverent story.