Just when you thought it was safe for a bloodsucker to go out in the dark in New Orleans, along comes Merrick Mayfair, a sultry, hard-drinking octoroon beauty whose voodoo can turn the toughest vampire into a marionette dancing to her merry, scary tune. In Merrick
, Anne Rice brings back three of her most wildly popular characters--the vampires Lestat and Louis and the dead vampire child Claudia--and introduces them to the world of her Mayfair Witches book series.
It is Louis who brings about the collision of the fang and voodoo universes. Louis made Claudia a vampire in Rice's classic Interview with the Vampire, in which she was destroyed, and now he's obsessed with raising her ghost to make amends and seek guidance from the beyond. (Claudia physically resembles Rice's young daughter who died of a blood-related illness. Rice nearly died of a diabetic coma in 1998, and writing Merrick turned her excruciating recovery into an exhilarating burst of creativity).
Vampire David Talbot lobbies Merrick to call Claudia's spirit and slake Louis's guilt, but Talbot winds up in the grip of an obsession with the witch. You see, Talbot, unlike most vampires, lived 70 years as a human, so his sexual response to humans is still as strong as his blood thirst. Merrick can cast spells to make men crave her, and Talbot is tormented. After she reads his palm, he muses, "I wanted to take her in my arms, not to feed from her, no, not harm her, only kiss her, only sink my fangs a very little, only taste her blood and her secrets, but this was dreadful and I wouldn't let it go on."
The secrets of Merrick are dark and sensuous, but the book is a romp animated by Rice's feeling of coming back to life through the magic of a literary outpouring. The narrative flashes back to the past, to an Indiana Jones-ish adventure in a Guatemalan cave, and to scenes from many other Rice novels. It may be helpful to read Merrick with the Rice-approved guidebooks The Vampire Companion and The Witches' Companion at hand.
After many books, Rice's grand Vampire Chronicles tale was in peril of getting long in the tooth. Merrick Mayfair's magic represents an infusion of fresh blood. --Tim Appelo
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From Publishers Weekly
The 22nd novel from the dazzlingly popular vampire chronicler (The Vampire Lestat, The Witching Hour, etc.) brings her familiar undead characters into New Orleans's underworld of witches, and then to the jungles of Central America. Charismatic, biracial Merrick Mayfair comes from a New Orleans caste bound up with traditions of voodoo; she's also descended from the powerful Mayfair witch clan. Once a supernatural detective, now a vampire himself, narrator David Talbot took care of Merrick when she was in her teens, but hasn't seen her in years. Rice-watchers will remember Talbot and the Mayfairs, and also the vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac and the girl Claudia, who now torments Louis from the afterworld. When Louis asks Talbot to raise Claudia's ghost, Talbot pleads with Merrick to use her rare talentsAand to revisit the past they share. Can Merrick really conjure the dead? Should she? What of the unspoken erotic charge between Talbot and Merrick? What secrets lie in the magical artifacts Merrick will have to find, and then to wield? And what do they have to do with her dead parents? This volume merges several long-running plots; the first chapters sag with the weight of their exposition, and the prose seems overheated even for Rice. Vampire fans will no doubt plunge on, however; soon enough, Merrick must revisit the Guatemalan rainforest, where she traveled as a young girl, to locate a secret treasure trove of ominous ancient runes. Displaying her imaginative talents for atmosphere and suspense, Rice creates a riveting scene that shows Merrick's awesome magic at work. A potent cameo from the vampire Lestat, with whom the fabled series began, leaves hints of more dark tales to come. 750,000 first printing; BOMC and Science Fiction Book Club main selections; Literary Guild selection; QPB alternate; Doubleday Book Club featured alternate. (Oct.)
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