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Originally published Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 5:00 AM

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Book review

'Hide Me Among the Graves': Erudite vampires in Victorian London

Tim Powers' unsettling new historical/vampire novel "Hide Me Among the Graves" is a worthy sequel to his "The Stress of Her Regard." But it helps to have read that book, which introduces both books' complex mythology, first.

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'Hide Me Among the Graves'

by Tim Powers

Morrow, 511 pp., $25.99

Blending historical facts and splendid descriptions of mid-Victorian London with paranormal and horror elements, Tim Powers' "Hide Me Among the Graves" is a strange, unsettling tome.

Please note that "Graves" is a sequel to Powers' "The Stress of Her Regard," and I strongly recommend beginning with that book, otherwise readers risk confusion.

After a prelude in which a young Christina Rossetti inadvertently welcomes in the vampiric ghost of her uncle, Dr. John Polidori (who was at one time Lord Byron's physician), "Graves" begins in 1862 London, with veterinarian John Crawford learning that his encounter with Adelaide McKee, then a prostitute, produced a daughter. McKee, who now deals in songbirds, informs Crawford that their daughter is alive, but is being targeted by Polidori.

Meanwhile, Polidori's presence in the Rossetti siblings' lives enhances their talents and keeps them from illness, but his murderous jealousy of those they love leads them to conclude that he must be stopped for good. They form a tenuous alliance with McKee and Crawford and are confronted with an ancient vampire queen, a sort of partner to Polidori, bent on England's annihilation.

It is a well-written if dense novel, but it is difficult to get through the first third of it, especially for those who haven't read "The Stress of Her Regard," which introduces Powers' complex mythology, which mercifully has little to do with vampirism as we know it today and more to do with obsessive love and mysticism as befitting the mid-Victorian period.

Clarification does come in the middle section of "Graves" (though it could have just as easily been present in the first), which also marks the point at which the plot picks up a pleasant speed. Longtime fans of Powers' work — and those who enjoy a good fright — will find a good deal to enjoy here.

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