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Rulers of Darkness


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Spruill continues his string of medical horror novels (My Soul to Take; Before I Wake) with this slight variation on vampires: he calls his bloodsuckers ``hemophages'' and suggests scientific explanations for their preternatural abilities and peculiar dietary needs. The hero, Merrick Chapman, is a centuries-old hemophage who, like many of his brethren, refuses to kill for the blood he drinks and is looking for a cure. The story is set in and around contemporary Washington, D.C., where Merrick uses his position as a detective to find and trap other hemophages. His son Zane, however, is a homicidal hemophage without guilt; he becomes Merrick's nemesis. The bloodsucking cop is both aided and hindered by his human associates, who include police colleagues and Dr. Katie O'Keefe, his recent lover and a specialist in blood research. They don't know his true identity and, in the tradition of superheroes with dark secrets, he's not going to tell them. The plot is intriguingly complex, incorporating matters of love and paternity as well as the central problem of how Merrick will handle Zane. By adding a noir-crime spin to his medical-horror formula, Spruill manages to grab hold of, and ride reasonably high on, the cape-tails of Anne Rice and the current vampire craze. (July)

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