I finished reading A Bloody Habit by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson a week ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed delving into the Catholic horror genre - what, you didn't know that was a thing? My recommendation - read Dracula by Bram Stoker before you pick up this novel. Set in the same time period and with a fun brief appearance by Stoker himself, this novel's parallels with Dracula are part of what makes it so good.
I will start off by saying that somehow I missed the fact that this novel had ties to Bram Stoker's novel. I have begun to read more Catholic fiction in the last year, saw this as recommended in several places, and asked my local public library to purchase a copy. When they did and I checked it out, imagine my surprise at finding its relationship to Dracula, a classic novel that I had only recently read for the first time. Reading this book a half year later was a nice follow-up.
Each chapter begins with a quotation from Stoker's novel, but the story itself is very much an original. The writing style made me feel like I was in the actual time period of early 1900s England. The fact that many of the characters were reading and raving over Dracula - and that the protagonist obviously scoffed at their enthusiasm over what he believed to be foolishness - drew me in right away. John Kemp's skepticism worked perfectly within the plot of the novel, giving him room to grow into a faith in something bigger than himself and beyond his typical trust in reason alone. He was an interesting and likeable character.
My favorite parts as I was reading Nicholson's novel on the tail of Dracula were when Father Thomas Gilroy's comments voiced thoughts I had entertained myself as I read Dracula from a Catholic perspective - namely, when he talked about "that putty nonsense" and when he corrected Stoker's mistaken use of the term "indulgences." I too corrected the text as I read - "that's a dispensation, not an indulgence!" I felt as if I shared a common understanding with the author.
The characters were well-developed and believable. The writing quality was superb. I enjoyed this novel on many levels, both as intellectual reading as well as entertainment. One part that touched me greatly was the compassion with which Father Gilroy assisted Adele Lawson at her death - Kemp was almost angry that the priest "didn't do anything," and yet, it is gradually made evident that the vampire-slaying priest is battling demons in a more dramatic yet quiet manner. The calm power of the sacraments was made evident without the novel coming across as preachy. Well done!