It's not easy to introduce a new angle into the extensive genre of vampire fiction - let alone do so successfully - but Alicia Benson has done just that in The First Vampire: A Novel of Samson & Delilah. You remember Samson - the big guy with unnatural strength and long hair who led Israel for twenty years before his love for the evil Delilah led to his downfall. Even though he knew the woman was keen to learn the secret of his God-given strength, he finally told her the truth - and ended up captured, blinded by hot pokers, and humiliated by his Philistine enemies after Delilah used that knowledge against him by cutting his hair as he slept, thus robbing him of his preternatural strength. Samson was able to redeem himself in the end by pulling down a temple on the heads of the Philistine leaders and himself, and that's where the story ends. Until now. Alicia Benson takes up where the Bible's Book of Judges left off, restoring Samson to something much more than life as he lay beneath the ruins of the pagan temple.
Despite what people say, time does not heal all wounds. Some 3000 years later, the vampire Samson - now known as Ash Samson - is still more than a little upset with the woman who betrayed him. In fact, he has been searching for Delilah all these years, determined to exact his revenge on her. Delilah, of course, died long, long ago, but it turns out that souls are indeed reincarnated - and Samson has finally found the one he's been looking for. Ariana Chambers has no idea she was Delilah in a former life, but neither she nor Ash can deny the strong attraction between them. Ash, now an extremely wealthy man, brings Ariana to his English mansion to work as his money manager - thus finally getting "Delilah" right where he wants her. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, his plans for revenge quickly become much more complicated than he ever would have suspected. Seeing Delilah again reawakens the love he felt for her alongside the deep-seated hatred he has nursed in his heart for millennia - and other complicating factors come into play as well.
Samson may have been the first vampire, but he is far from the last. His progeny exist in significant numbers, but that number is mysteriously decreasing at the moment, as several individual vampires have been disappearing of late. Ash's relations with some of his oldest "friends" have also become rather complicated. Then there's Ariana/Delilah. Not only does she still possess the strongest of wills, it turns out that there is far more to the story of her original betrayal of Samson than he ever knew. On top of all that, you also have Lilith thrown into the mix of past and present events. (Lilith is, by some traditions, the first wife of Adam who refused to subjugate herself to her husband and became - and I'm ridiculously oversimplifying things here - the mother of all demons.)
I expected The First Vampire to tell an interesting story, but I must admit I didn't expect to find such a rich and complex multi-leveled plot that tied everything together so impressively in the end. And speaking of endings, Benson closes her debut novel out with a bang. You may think you know how this book will end, but don't count on it. I know I was surprised, to say the least. This is just a great read from start to finish.