Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick

A review by C J Dee
  • Page count: 310 [excluding acknowledgements]
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1/5

Charles Jackson is a young soldier when he first arrives in Paris. It is 1944 and Paris has just been liberated so his CO takes him on a cultural tour. It is there that Charles sees a man devouring the blood of a woman. Charles flees the sight, the war ends and he returns to his normal life as a haematologist in London.

A few years later, the opportunity arises for Charles to return to Paris and he has a chance encounter with the man who horrified him so many years ago. Through this encounter Charles meets Marian, a red-haired American with whom he is instantly smitten. In an effort to save Marian from the blood-drinking man, Charles inadvertently alienates her. A decade later Charles finds that Marian’s silence wasn’t caused by indignation but by death.

It’s now Charles’s self-imposed responsibility to find who caused Marian’s premature death and bring them to justice by any means necessary.

Where do I begin? Let’s start at the beginning I guess, as good a place as any considering that’s where I first had misgivings about A Love Like Blood. The writing itself.

From the first page, I had the impression that the author had grabbed a thesaurus and chosen words at random to replace with fancier sounding words. For example, on the first page the author uses the word ‘quotidian’ when ‘daily’ would have fit just as well if not better. It continues like this throughout A Love Like Blood, though to be fair it is told from the perspective of an English scientist so perhaps stuffy language was used to portray this in the character. However, the end result felt disjointed and unenjoyable.

As a large portion of the story is set in Paris, it makes sense that a majority of the characters speak French. However, again the French text in A Love Like Blood made the story difficult to follow at times as large chunks of text are written in French. I have a very basic grasp of the French language but ended up sitting hunched over my phone typing blocks of French text into Google Translate so as to understand what was being said. It did not work well at all and I felt upon reading the translations that some of the things being said were relatively important, yet weren’t reiterated or translated into English for the reader.

The sentence structure of A Love Like Blood was incredibly difficult to read at times. It was as though the author had put the beginning of a sentence at the end, the middle at the beginning and the end at the beginning then thrown in half a dozen commas for good measure. There were some sentences I had to read three or four times before finally understanding what the author was trying to say. Once again, it was very disjointed and caused the story to suffer.

The story in itself of A Love Like Blood was reasonably weak. There were long drawn out passages where the ‘protagonist’ was doing not much of anything at all.

You may notice in that last sentence I used sarcastic punctuation. I like a flawed protagonist as much as anyone, but the ‘protagonist’ of A Love Like Blood was not flawed. He was deranged. He was sick. He was obsessive. He was a creep. He was a bit of a pervert. He stalked people at the drop of a hat. He threw his entire life away and took on a crusade to avenge a woman he purportedly loved, but whom realistically he had only met on a few occasions. I found myself disliking the ‘protagonist’ more than the ‘antagonist’.

Speaking of the ‘antagonist’. Save for the French sermon he gives to his cult, the author doesn’t have the antagonist say more than a handful of words for the entire book. Then within the last 50 pages he has a long, rambling, boring, repetitive speech that goes on for four pages. Let me repeat that: the villain rambles on for FOUR PAGES.

I could not in good conscience recommend this book to anyone. I could not find anything redeemable about A Love Like Blood. The plot, the characters, the writing itself – the big three when it comes to engaging storytelling were all lacking or devastatingly flawed. If you want to read a story about people drinking blood, read Salem’s Lot instead.