Karen Russell - Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Author's second collection is unpredictable, tense and compulsive
(Chatto & Windus)
In a world saturated with vampire lore, you could be forgiven for thinking there was nothing left to say on the subject. So it’s all the more impressive that the title story of Karen Russell’s second collection feels completely fresh: a melancholy, moving tale of a century-long marriage in danger of falling apart.
Russell is adept at breathing new life into several familiar tropes. ‘Proving Up’ starts out as a traditional western, but soon the skies darken and the narrative veers towards the supernatural. Elsewhere she takes the old creepy-doll horror device and makes it scary again, creating palpable dread around the mystery of the eerily vacant Eric Mutis.
The writing is spot-on throughout, with rich world-building and fleshed-out characters. A few stories, such as the tongue-in-cheek ‘Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules For Antarctic Tailgating’, are a little lacking in depth, but more than get by on entertainment value. Ultimately it is the hint of magic in the everyday world that makes all the stories so unpredictable, tense and compulsive.