My first experience of Michael Mulvihill’s work was something of a strange one. On one hand I loved his writing and felt that his style was both elegant and restrained; a balance that most writers never manage to achieve. However, his religious beliefs and the story’s insistence on driving them home began to turn me off and I lost interest before the end. So it was both a surprise and an honour when the author gallantly asked me to look at his recent work Diabolis of Dublin, a vampire tale set not surprisingly on the streets of Dublin. Firstly I would like to apologise to Michael for taking so long to get this one finished. It is most certainly not a reflection on the quality of the book. It is simply a case of life getting in the way of things!
Anyway, back to the book, and a rather wonderful book it is too. Mulvihill manages to breathe new life into what is possibly the most over-abused of all horror sub-genres: The Vampire tale. From myths and legends into the popular fiction of every era the Vampire has always had a place to exist. But over the years and especially in recent times they have become somewhat neutered and seem to lack the bite that they used to have. There are notable exceptions such as Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night, but for the most part The Vampire seems to have become rather toothless. Not so with Michael Mulvihill’s Lucis Diabolis.
Diabolis is the sole vampire in Dublin and he spends his nights trawling the streets looking for food and trying to come to terms with his place in a world that doesn’t really belong to him anymore. As the city of Dublin prepares to celebrate the Bram Stoker festival we journey with the elegant and intelligent Diabolis through the past and the present as he comes face to face with himself and what it really means to be a Vampire. So far it sounds like a million other vampire stories but I can assure you that it isn’t. Returning to the creatures roots Diabolis of Dublin is a much rawer, grittier tale than the average vampire story, and is as far removed from the asinine romanticism of the Twilight series as it gets. Many of the familiar tropes are here from the gothic setting to the themes of loneliness, despair and death, but what sets it apart are its excursions into the under belly of Dublin life and the way it examines its lead characters troubles and problems.
It is completely unashamed and unforgiving in its portrayal of Dublin’s dark side and shares a brilliant sense of place with the author’s previous book. Both novels manage to conjure up vivid environments that leave you feeling as if you had actually been there. There is also a strange sense of sadness that creeps through the book, not just at Diabolis’ vampiric condition, but of a city swallowed by itself. Punctuated by sudden explosions of violence that the late, great James Herbert would be proud of the outskirts of the city are foreboding places where tragedy and sadness are never far away. It almost feels like a lament for a city that has lost some of its grandeur.
It isn’t perfect, and there are a couple of small moments where the black and white morality that marred Siberian Hellhole creep in. But these are fleeting, and for the most part Diabolis of Dublin paints a landscape where emotions and morality are complex and filled with grey areas. Turning many of the classic ideas about Vampires on their heads Mulvihill has crafted a tale about the stark loneliness of a true outsider, but also one about the stark social divides that exist in the world and the dark emotions that accompany them.
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