John Marks
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Buy *Fangland* by John Marks online

John Marks
400 pages
January 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Newly engaged and with wedding plans dancing in her head, the last thing Evangeline Harker wants to do is travel on assignment to Romania, where she will be meeting with a man believed to be a major player in Eastern Europe's organized crime organization. After checking into her hotel in Bucharest, Evangeline makes the acquaintance of a fellow American, Clementine Spence, who describes herself as more of a change agent than a missionary. The two strike up a tentative friendship and become travel companions for the trip to Brasov, where Evangeline will be meeting her contact.

The road is not an easy one as the pair drives through Romania and into Transylvania. Weary and tired, they arrive at the hotel where they are met by an odd and rather unattractive man. Evangeline is sure this must be the contact who will introduce her to the infamous Ion Torgu. Clemmie senses something is wrong, but her warning falls on deaf ears. Evangeline should have listened to Clemmie; instead, she goes off with the man, sealing her fate.

Ion Torgu is ugly and despicable, yet there is something alluring about him just the same. Evangeline and the reader cannot help but be taken in. He plays the role of weak well, wanting to be liked and in need of constant reassurance. Underneath that, however, lies dark power and strength unmatched by anyone. He wants something from Evangeline, and he is determined to take it if she will not give it to him willingly.

Meanwhile, back in New York, things are not going as smoothly as usual. Evangeline's disappearance and lack of contact with anyone, including her family, have put everyone on edge. Tapes arrive in the mail from Romania, but nothing of import appears to be on them - only an empty wooden chair. Whispers float in the air of the news offices on the 20th floor. A strange illness seems to have infected the news staff; death and evil hang in the air.

Long-time correspondent Austen Trotta is at first oblivious to what is going on around him in the newsroom, although he is greatly concerned about the safety of his associate producer, Evangeline. It is not until much later that he realizes he should have listened to the warnings of editor, Julia Barnes, a competent and clear-headed woman who picks up on the wrongness in the office early on. Then there is Stimson Beevers, the young production associate who takes Evangeline's disappearance the hardest outside of her own family.

Evangeline, believed to be dead, is discovered in a Transylvanian monastery where she has been living for the past several months. Evangeline is no longer the naive, sweet-natured woman she once was. A darkness hangs over her now. Hope is ignited on the 20th floor at the news of her return, but the nightmare is not yet over.

Author John Marks uses his knowledge of working in a newsroom to set the stage for his terrifying tale, describing the inner workings of what it takes to put a successful news program together and the direction, for better or worse, similar news shows have taken today. Each character and their role within the production of the news show plays an integral part in the story as it is told. The cast of characters is well drawn, many of whom are more than what they first appear. They each have their own histories and stories, some of which plays into the events that will come as the novel progresses.

The author draws from Bram Stoker's famous Dracula novel, piecing his story together in a similar fashion. The story is told through a compilation of journal entries and e-mail correspondence of varying characters, offering a more full picture of events as they unfold. Some of the milestones in Fangland are echoes of its predecessor, Dracula. Likewise, the roles of some of the characters may seem familiar to those who have read both, yet the story is very different. John Marks has written a different sort of vampire tale.

Fangland is an entertaining and well-crafted horror novel. John Marks is a gifted writer who takes a classic story, turns in on its ear, and makes it all his own. The author lays the groundwork, slowly building in intensity but never lacking in suspense. Fangland is both seductive and horrifying, with a climax that must not be missed.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Wendy Runyon, 2008

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