From 17th Century Poland to 1993 Florida, this fascinating novel seamlessly combines the matter of fact style of a police procedural with the horror and eroticism of the vampire. Drawn from obscure stories in the Jewish mystical tradition, The Alukam presents an entirely new type of vampire, one unaffected by crosses, sunlight, or any of the usual remedies, and who can rest in his coffin only on the Sabbath.
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The Alukam is that rare novel that crosses genre boundaries with complete success. In style, it is a police procedural, following a Gulf Coast Florida detective as he tracks what the newspapers have dubbed a 'vampire' serial murderer. His job is complicated by his religion, for he is an Orthodox Jew living a community where there are barely enough Orthodox to even hold services, and the larger Jewish community, mostly Conservative and Reform, tend to look on his segment as an archaic remnant of oddballs. (Not that the others are really a majority, of course, as the loudest local residents are mainly fundamentalist Christians.) Making his life even more complicted is the killer himself, who is also Jewish, but not at all the blood-drinking psycho everyone is looking for. Isaac Nathanson is is a handsome, genial, urbane and very rich young man with red hair, a house on the beach filled with books in half a dozen languages, and a Mustang convertible. He is also a vampire. A real vampire, who first rose from his grave in Poland in 1684 after committing suicide by jumping from the roof of the synagogue. As punishment he is doomed to eternal wakefullness, a liquid diet, and the ability to rest only on the Jewish sabbath, when he is compelled to return to his coffin to be both enticed and tortured by visions of the heavenly paradise his suicide has denied him. This novel draws on a completely different tradition than the standard vampire story. A vampire is created only by suicide under very particular circumstances, and the only release for the victim is by having special prayers said over his grave. None of the traditional remedies work. Nathanson can drive around at noon with the top down on his car, isn't in the least bothered by religious items, and his most likely reaction to a stake through the heart would probably be to pull it out and use it as a club on his attacker. Nor do his victims become vampires. Instead of the usual, ever-increasing legion of vampires, there are only a handful scattered around the world. Nathanson is one of them. Another, a very close friend, is a beautiful female who looks a few years younger, but is actually centuries older. She works as an exotic dancer, of all things, and frequently seems more interested in sex than blood. There is, in fact, a lot of sex in this novel. But there is virtually no profanity, and the sex scenes, while explicit enough, are depicted without any reference to the usual list of 'dirty' words. I found them to be very sensual and arrousing, but not at all vulgar or dirty. The author is, as far as I can tell from a deliberately vague bio, a man, but the eroticism certainly appeals to this woman.