By Marty Mulrooney
Dracula’s Heir is an interactive mystery book written by Sam Stall and illustrated by Roland Sarkany. In a similar vein to Batman: Murder At Wayne Manor (reviewed here), readers of Dracula’s Heir must study interactive clues – such as the original first chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula – to discover who is responsible for a series of grisly murders and uncloak the new nosferatu… perfect reading for Halloween!
This is a cleverly written book, with an ingenious premise. In the introduction, the reader is addressed directly by fictional author Jon Kelso, who has recently came into the procession of some rather unusual documents. Left to him by the recently deceased Lady Godalming, this collection of journal entries, letters and clues all point towards the famous tale of Dracula being true! Accompanying the documents is a letter of warning: Jon Kelso’s life is in danger, but why?
Mr Kelso is not remotely worried. After all, none of these documents could be factual, right? He immediately sets out to make a profit, publishing the documents for entertainment value and monitory gain in September 2008. He only asks that, if any of his readers gain any insight into the threat to his life, they contact his publisher immediately…
It is a strong opening that directly involves the modern-day reader, allowing the aging documents themselves to form the main body of the book. Furthermore, by telling the story in the form of journal entries and letters, it remains both faithful to the novel Dracula, and allows a greater sense of detective work even when not directly manipulating the included clues, such as a photograph of a recent bite victim (see left) or the London Clarion newspaper from 1905.
The story itself is very well written and has much more substance than you would perhaps suspect at first. The main narrator is Dr. John Seward, who begins by writing to Dr. Abraham Van Helsing about the new novel Dracula (which is based on their own experiences many years before) and a series of accidental deaths and murders than have occurred recently in the area. The reader is then kept up-to-date with Seward’s findings via subsequent letters and journal entries. The unravelling mystery is genuinely gripping, with enough twists and turns to keep amateur sleuths on their toes.
The black and white images that accompany the tale are presented in an effective manner, drawn simply but with plenty of detail. The included clues are similarly detailed, although I was slightly disappointed that they were often fairly straightforward, without requiring much further examination. The biggest treat has to be the omitted first chapter of Dracula in its entirety though, which provides a perfect break from the main story and is actually real! (Posthumously published after Bram Stoker’s death as the short story Dracula’s Guest.)
The sealed solution at the end of Dracula’s Heir is hugely satisfying to read. Mr Kelso has vanished and the entire story, dating from the 1900’s all the way up to the present day, culminates in a satisfying explanation that is both fair and head-scratchingly brilliant. The ultimate secret to Dracula’s Heir’s success is that is treats the the story itself with respect. This a well written, thoroughly enjoyable follow-up to Dracula that has the added bonus of interactive clues and a modern day twist. A step up from Batman: Murder At Wayne Manor then, and a good example of how some underwhelming elements (lightweight clues) can be counterbalanced by brilliant storytelling.
9 OUT OF 10