Candle Bay, by Tamara Thorne

candle-bay-by-tamara-thorne coverGenre: Horror
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Published: 2001
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by William D. Gagliani

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Sometimes the logic behind the publishing industry’s decisions simply eludes me. Anyone who knows me has heard my rant about publishers who throw books at the market like chefs throw pasta at the wall, hoping they’ll stick. Well, why is it that some authors get the benefit of hardcover deals and great promotion budgets, and others do not even though they have pleased legions of fans? Tamara Thorne is a shining example of a writer who has tapped into a seemingly endless vein of satirically comic horror novels, and she deserves the wider audience true promotion would help her win. CANDLE BAY is a new novel that’s likely to bring her more fans than ever, given its subtly erotic cover painting and, better yet, the fun stuff inside.

Amanda arrives at the lovely Candle Bay Hotel, nestled on fog-shrouded cliffs, partially because she has been drawn to it all her life. Working there is a dream come true. Owned by the Darling family, the hotel sports its own ghosts and legends of secret tunnels and a great Treasure, perhaps pirate-oriented, perhaps not. But Amanda doesn’t care about that, falling almost immediately for the broodingly handsome Stephen Darling. The rest of the eccentric family consists of beautiful, headstrong Natasha, the evil twins Juicy Lucy and Poison

Ivy, the stoic Ivor, and Uncle Orion (Ori), who adores Mob mystique so much that he pretends he’s the Godfather. In fact, his fantasy world is so vivid that a minor would-be wiseguy named Leoni has confessed that a competing family, the Dantes, have sent him to obtain information about the tunnels and the Treasure, of course. Ori plays the game blissfully. He can afford to, for every member of the Darling clan is a vampire. The Dantes, too. Leoni doesn’t know it, and the guests don’t either, though they ARE the Darlings’ “meals” — just enough at dinner time to subsist on, followed by hypnosis. What a sweet set-up for a bunch of genteel vampires!

But things are happening. The mysterious Julian has introduced the Darlings to a mysterious elixir, the Darlings find themselves constantly hungry and craving live blood, and a Mob war seems inevitable. There’s more, much more, but consider this a teaser.

With Tamara Thorne, you have to think outside the box. You can’t go into a Thorne novel and expect the straightforward, the obvious, or the tired. Thorne is the Zucker-Zucker-Abrahams of horror, taking familiar elements and twisting, flipping them on their sides. This is her normal approach to horror. Or, how about this?

Think Anne Rice done as French farce and written by the staff of “The Sopranos.” Name-games, near-Seinfeldian parodies of movies or novels you can sometimes spot but which tend more often toward the elusive. Gargantuan, uh, body parts, missing bodies in carts, lots of steamy sex, and details as knee-slappingly funny as Slater Brothers and Crimson Tide, vintage blood distributors.

CANDLE BAY fills in yet another corner of Thorne’s thoroughly warped California, joining such weird destinations as Eternity and Moonfall and Santo Verde, all places on the Thorne Travelogue. The playfulness hints that Thorne is not altogether serious, yet the blood flows and people die — people she is a good enough writer to make you care about.

This is sexy horror done right — bloody with a subtle bouquet and a hefty twist of humor. Characters who bitch and moan at each other like real people. And a serial killer thrown in just for fun. Thorne gets better with each outrageous outing, crafting satires so subversive they should carry warning labels.

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