What do you get when you mix vampires, a hitman, a grief stricken mother recently released from a mental institution who is bent on revenge- and a plump little angel with the appearance of a pigeon?  You get one fantastic story…that’s what!  Scouse Gothic by author Ian McKinney is by no means your typical vampire tale.  For those who are seeking the traditional “stake through the heart” good versus evil battle, you will not find it here.  However, readers who are interested in a brilliant novel with a gripping plot, which intertwines the lives of its many complex characters into a wholly mesmerizing story…look no further!

To provide a summary of this book without giving away too much of the plot is actually quite difficult.  The novel has many “stories within the story” which are cleverly woven together into a collective whole as the story events gradually unfold.  Essentially, the book begins with the vampire Melville, who after trying to stop killing humans and drinking their blood, finds himself recovering from a binge kill.  The reader is allowed to see Melville’s past as he reminisces about time gone by and he feels intense sorrow at its passing.  However, when he encounters the pretty and lively vampire Sheryl, the future begins to look much brighter for Melville.  Nevertheless, unbeknownst to Melville, there are many events unfolding which may have a dramatic impact upon his newfound happiness.  A hitman named Lathom who has recently tried to kill his latest mark has set a number of unfortunate events into motion.  Revenge and chaos will ensue!

Speaking of revenge…we are also introduced to Catherine who has spent the last part of her life in a mental institution.  After the murder of her son, she will stop at nothing to have her vengeance.  Lastly, we see the despondent Peter, who has recently lost his beloved wife and is planning a suicide so that he can join her in the next life.  But after encountering a rather caustic angel in the form of a pigeon, Peter is convinced to reconsider.  How can all these distinct events possibly be related you ask?  Read on with both your mouth and mind open wide and the answer will become readily apparent!

In my opinion, truly great novels have a wonderful plot, dynamic characters and a vivid setting which can easily be pictured within the mind.  Scouse Gothic has all of the above.  First of all, the plot is entirely engrossing and captivating.  There are a number of themes which run throughout the story, but resilience and atoning for one’s past mistakes is the most dominant one for me.  The author manages to convey the theme through a series of engrossing and intricate story events.  I found the manner in which all the action and characters were ultimately tied together to be simply brilliant and very engaging.  Subtle, intelligent and very effective!  There is no doubt in my mind that Ian McKinney planned his plot development meticulously.

As great as the plot of this novel is, it would really not have worked without well developed characters.  There is no fear of that happening here.  This is a very character driven story.  While there are a number of significant characters, Melville does stand out as the chief protagonist.  The characters are all developed in great depth and we are able to examine their past and present circumstances which are presented from their own unique viewpoint and perspective.  The reader is able to get into all of their heads.  While I was reading I found myself becoming very emotionally invested in the characters.  The only one I could not empathize with was Kelly, but he nonetheless stands out as a perfect villain.

Last but not least, the author has obviously devoted a lot of time and effort to the setting of the novel.  As a reader you pretty much feel like you are actually there and part of the adventure.  I quite enjoyed the way the buildings and architecture of Liverpool was presented from a historical and cultural perspective.  It was touching to see characters such a Melville and Sheryl  reminisce about how certain areas or buildings had changed dramatically through the many years, while others not at all. The author manages to describe the setting in such a way that it can easily be visualized and appreciated, but not lose the reader’s interest with excessive detail at the same time.  That is no easy feat!

Overall I found this to be an entirely enjoyable reading experience.  I actually read the book twice in order to complete this review.  While I really liked it the first time, I enjoyed it even more the second time around.  That says a lot about the quality of writing.  There are some violent scenes and sexual overtones and as such it is recommended for adult readers.  However…recommended it most certainly is!

5 out of 5 Gothic Stars for this one!