There’s a pulsating subliminal seduction in Marcus Sedgwick’s A Love Like Blood, published by Pegasus Books. The novel equates that which is sanguinary with sensibility and sensuality, creating a hot undercurrent to the story. First person narrator, British hematologist Charles Jackson, relates events that radically altered his life from 1944-1968. He becomes obsessed with a man he witnessed drinking blood from a supine female in 1944, and subsequent events over the next twenty-plus years transform Jackson from a voyeur to a stalker. Although grounded in the world of science and intellect, Jackson finds himself succumbing to a profound emotional obsession. Author Sedgwick creates a splendidly shocking tale, devoid of supernatural vampires and rampant action scenes. He focuses on the dormant horrific and twisted aspects of the mind: “War doesn’t make men do monstrous things. It allows them to.”
The book slowly builds in intensity, showing Jackson’s psyche fraying at the seams as he becomes more and more fixated on bringing the blood imbibing murderer to justice. Jackson has, by profession, immersed himself in the study of blood. His career choice careens into an awareness of how blood imagery is part of western culture. There are references to partaking of the Eucharist, Dante’s Inferno, and Fritz Lang’s classic film M (in which the child murderer protagonist portrayed by Peter Lorre was reputedly based on the infamous “Vampire of Dusseldorf,” a serial killer who drank the blood of some of his victims). Jackson concludes that blood is, “Something that controls us, unseen, from inside, carrying our life force through our bodies, carrying the chemicals within it that cause us to become afraid, or to feel excitement or sexual desire, to swell inside our lips and our genitals, to pound through the chambers of the heart, causing our pupils to dilate, our skin to break sweat, our libido to be unleashed.” Ultimately, he summarizes by saying, “Blood is our master.”
The narrative is essentially an extended character study. Patience is required given the pace and structure. Jackson’s mental state unravels in increments during the hunt which lasts decades and traverses England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. Yet the plot, which zeroes in on the obsessive facet of Jackson’s behavior, also addresses addiction. The blood drinker is indeed an addict and his initially willing donors are more than mere facilitators. There’s a perverse pleasure in the exchange of plasma.
Marcus Sedgwick has previously received praise for his published children’s and young adult books. A Love Like Blood is his first foray into the adult fiction market. To say he’s the made the literary leap with a vengeance is an understatement. A Love Like Blood’s visceral jolts are delivered with low-key British reserve, packing the punches with an unexpected and devastating wallop.
A Love Like Blood is available now via Pegasus Books