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Brian James Gage
The Nosferatu Conspiracy, Book One: The Sleepwalker

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

History states Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children were executed on the morning of July 17, 1918 (OS). This contrasts suppressed documents citing the royal family mysteriously disappeared after fires ravaged Saint Petersburg in December 1916 (OS).

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was supposedly murdered by high-ranking Russian officials on December 16, 1916 (OS), for his unprecedented and perceived nefarious influence over the royal family. He was poisoned, shot twice, and clubbed into submission, yet remained alive. His attackers finally drowned him underneath the icy Neva River.

Rasputin’s autopsy was reportedly performed three days later by Professor Kossorotov, a high-ranking Okhrana agent and future Kremlin operative. Cause of death: drowning. The document states Rasputin broke free of his bindings and his fingernails showed signs he’d tried to claw through the ice.

The stories surrounding Rasputin’s death are gross falsifications. His body was never recovered for examination, and his status within the Russian intelligence community to this day remains: At Large.

This is the true story of Rasputin’s paranormal coup d'etat and his conjuring of ancient vampires that destroyed Saint Petersburg, Russia, in December 1916.

History is a lie. The truth will be exposed.

Gage’s wonderfully gruesome supernatural suspense debut combines Russian history with vampire lore. In December 1916, Alexandra, wife of Tsar Nicholas II, has “become sickness”—her hemophilia is, in truth, vampirism. Her son, Alexei, is only a half-vampire, but Grigori Rasputin, a disciple of Vlad Drăculea’s teachings, plans to turn him the rest of the way, believing Alexei is destined to lead vampires to global domination. As the serial killer known as the Sleepwalker starts terrorizing Saint Petersburg, the coroner, Rurik Kozlov, knows by the mutilation of the bodies that Russia is facing a supernatural threat. When Prince Felix Yusupov is framed for murdering his girlfriend and goes to Rurik to see her body, he learns of the existence of vampires and Rasputin’s plan to rule the world. Terrified but determined, Rurik and Felix unite to stop the vampires.

In prose designed to be read aloud with lurid glee—“The river that slithers below the Carpathian peaks sucks all life and hope into its sinuous network of vessels”—Gage makes a welcome return to vampires that are heartless, cold, and deadly, designed for readers to hate and fear. He adds in giant vampire bats that turn into horrifying Nosferatu, “savage, manlike vampire gods,” on the ground. Readers are immersed in a well researched and turbulent Russia, with instability and looming revolution building tension, and will feel the dangers of walking the darkened streets with a vicious serial killer lurking around the corner. Every train ride, shadow, and moment of eerie quiet perfectly creates a feeling of foreboding.

As the heinous vampires deliver death and destruction, the few characters willing to fight stay strong. The battle never feels entirely lost, and readers will hold out hope for at least a somewhat happy ending. On every page, this supernatural historical delivers abundant thrills and chills.

Takeaway: This wonderfully terrifying blend of bloody history and vicious vampires will hold supernatural suspense fans in thrall.

Great for fans of Sarah Pinborough’s Mayhem, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Set mostly in 1916 Russia, this enthralling series launch from Gage (The Vampires of Draconian Hill) injects the paranormal into the strange career of Grigori Rasputin by making the sinister monk, who in real life survived multiple assassination attempts by his many rivals for influence at Nicholas II’s court, a vampire. Rasputin plots to abduct Empress Alexandra, so that she can be part of a ceremony to be held at Loch Dracul near the Carpathian Mountains, the home of giant bats that transform into “savage, manlike vampire gods.” If Rasputin manages to perform the ritual successfully, he may be able to “rule over all things living and dead.” A subplot involving a legendary serial killer known as the Sleepwalker, who has been targeting prostitutes and the homeless for years, raises the stakes. Connecting the Romanov family’s history of hemophilia with vampirism is inspired, and the author does a superior job of integrating the unrest preceding the Russian Revolution into the gore-filled action. Fans of historical horror thrillers will be eager to see where Gage goes next. (Self-published)