January 12, 2016 by kitmoss
By Mel Keegan
One of the many fascinating things about vampire novels is how each author handles such elements as the nature of the “affliction,” whether the threat is to victims or to the vampire him- or herself, the morality of vampire society, and how the vampire is perceived by the human society within which s/he lives. In the traditional vampire story the creature is evil, predatory, cursed perhaps, and his or her destruction is the point of the story. In others the vampire is something of a savior, is a diseased person victimized by an ignorant and superstitious human culture, and the rescue or protection of whom is the point of the story. One might argue that the two extremes reflect a change in our own society’s practice of morality or at least religion, the former fearful black and white vs. today’s growing awareness of disability, diversity, and “human” rights.
Mel Keegan’s NOCTURNE is decidedly the latter, and a very appealing version it is. Michael Flynn, a young Irish occultist, has more mystery surrounding him than just his arcane talents, or so Vincent Bantry discovers as he becomes first attracted, then obsessed, and then in love with him. Michael must stay out of the sunlight, never seems to eat or drink, and is cagey in the extreme about himself and his past. Bantry is not the only person compelled by Michael as an old friend of Bantry’s, a doctor, has guessed that there is something different about the fey young man. He plans to get to the bottom of it, and he does not care who will be hurt, especially Michael. Then when there is a series of gruesome murders Michael and by association Bantry are suspected, the good doctor sees the misfortune as a chance to get exclusive access to Michael. That the doctor has altruistic motives is no comfort for the vampire nor of Bantry himself.
This novel, which takes place mostly in England and France in the 1890s, and it is well researched not only for this time period but also in its faithful yet creative interpretation of vampire lore. The characters, not only the three mentioned but other vampires and their proteges, London society, the police and others, are complex and unpredictable. There is no black and white here, but every possible range of the spectrum. On top of the rich story set in the 1890s the historical background of the ancient race of the vampire, older than the human race, immortals who have known the great and wicked of history. Michael himself comes from ancient Eire and has lived with the great, particularly in the heydays of the Renaissance and later Italian artists.
One theme of the novel is the hopelessness of finding true and enduring love for two men. Neither Bantry nor Flynn anticipate having romantic love in their lives, so the reader is obviously rooting for them to overcome their fears to be together. I will leave it to you to discover whether love is in the cards for them.
I thought this was one of Mel Keegan’s best. His heart was clearly in this one of his many celebrated works.