All the best horror reads like a dream. Actually, more like a nightmare. Jeff Gunhus’s Gypsy Blood is peak nightmare aesthetic, and this bizarre murder mystery set in the chilly labyrinth of Paris is sure to keep many awake at night.
The book’s hero (if you can call him that) is Corbin Stewart. Like a lot of failed writers and artists before him, Stewart thinks that Paris is synonymous with inspiration, as if the masterstrokes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald were only possible because of the sacred coffee of the Montmartre. Unfortunately for Stewart, getting rejected in bars is the only thing he manages to accomplish in the City of Lights.
That misfortune turns extremely sour when Stewart witnesses a gruesome murder. The killers are no ordinary villains—Stewart sees that they have a flair for the dramatic, killing wearing porcelain tragedy masks. Stewart’s attempt to save the murder victim is rewarded with the curse of a tormented soul.
Gypsy Blood is a great potboiler that combines mystery, murder, and the supernatural, if the supernatural conceit at the heart of the work does strain credulity. It moves fast—most of its fifty-plus chapters barely last more than five pages—and is workmanlike, exemplifying the writing of a bestseller. While the “Franglish” of the novel is at times trying, Gypsy Blood imbues a European atmosphere in what is a thoroughly American-style horror story.
Earthy and realistic details center its more outlandish elements. Gypsy Blood is a work of horror that neither needs nor contains frilly adornments.
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