Pomegranate Press, Ltd.
In which “Meg Harrison,” a vampire from Minnesota who’s been supplementing her dream of being an actress by working as a Playboy Bunny in New York City, lands a role on the new Gothic soap opera Dark Passages. Initially all goes well, until a new “actress” joins the cast – a witch named Camilla who has a long-standing vendetta against Meg’s family! Weakened by her “no human blood” policy, can Meg prevail against Camilla’s sneak attacks?
Anyone even remotely familiar with Kathryn Leigh Scott’s life and career ought to enjoy her using many details of her youth as the basis for this novel – and the conceit of a show like Dark Passages actually being populated by the sorts of beings it portrays on a daily basis, is a delicious one. Similarly, the actors’ behind-the-scenes behaviours and excesses make the novel read like a roman a clef of Dark Shadows itself, but never maliciously so.
If anything, Dark Passages probably has too much going on within its pages; Scott juggles the compartmentalised aspects of Meg’s life – working at the Playboy Club; performing the “well executed, completely riveting hokum” of Dark Passages; being a vampire; attempting to have a relationship with a childhood sweetheart serving in the military; and fending off Camilla – but frequently comes dangerously close to dropping the ball.
Sadly, the novel’s weakest aspect is the conflict between Meg and Camilla; aside from a brief mention of her tangles with Meg’s mother and grandmother, the witch’s motives for her vendetta are nebulous at best. Consequently, she comes across as more of a generic “villain acting villainous just because the main character needs an antagonist” than as a genuine character, which is a shame. While their final confrontation is epic enough – taking place on location at a sprawling estate where the Dark Passages movie is being filmed – it fails to satisfy because readers probably won’t have enough invested in the conflict to appreciate fully what Kathryn Leigh Scott is trying to accomplish.
Verdict: An ambitious, droll first novel with some interesting takes on vampirism, Dark Passages bites off more than it can chew, but I’d sooner criticise a book for attempting to do too much than too little. 6/10
John S. Hall