Could the serial killer terrorizing the village of Lotingen be a vampire?
Procurator Hanno Steffeniis has witnessed multiple tragedies in his small town, including a pack of murderous dogs and the horrible death of his baby son Anders during a wave of illness sweeping 18th-century Prussia. Now comes an equally ominous tragedy. At the bottom of an unused well is found the body of young seamstress Angela Enke of neighboring Krupeken. The well is on the property of beautiful and enigmatic Emma Rimmele, a newcomer to the village, for whom Angela worked occasionally. Stiffeniis' stolid assistant Knutzen and a handful of village men are needed to retrieve the corpse. Both the extreme effort used to conceal the body and the two punctures on the neck are curious and worrisome. Stiffeniis wishes to keep this last detail under wraps lest the imagination of the superstitious populace run wild. Angela's angry mother talks vaguely of her daughter's depression and her consorting with women of low morals. Stiffeniis, whose wife Helena has not been the same since Anders' death, meets with Emma Rimmele privately and feels both an affinity and a guilty attraction to her. Scarcely has he sorted out his thoughts than there's a second victim, the sexton Lars Merson. His puncture wounds are the same as Angela's, but his cassock has also been ripped open and an iron spike driven through his heart.
Stiffeniis' fourth case (A Visible Darkness, 2009, etc.) may be excessively florid, but it maintains suspense and an authentic period feel throughout.