By Matt Haig Published
by Walker Canongate
ISBN 978 1 4063 3028 1
Peter and Helen Radley live with their teenage children, Clara and Rowan, in a small town in the north of England. On the surface, they are an average local family leading a comfortable life.
Like a lot of married couples reaching middle-age, Dr and Mrs Radley are frustrated by the boredom of their marriage.
Clara and Rowan also have problems. Clara has decided to become a vegan and is feeling quite ill. The children at school think Ryan is a weirdo because he is shy and pale.
The Radleys are a typical dysfunctional English family with their problems and domestic concerns. But the they have a secret that is bigger than most. They are a family of vampires trying to live a normal life. They don't want any anyone to know.
Peter and Helen have raised their two children according to the advice of The Abstainer's Handbook, a popular self-help manual for vampires who choose to abstain from their natural bloodsucking instincts. The decision the Radley parents have taken not to drink human blood has taken its toll on the family, but they are managing to adhere to their principles.
Rowan and Clara discover the truth about themselves in a terrible way. Clara's instincts surface one night when a local teen comes on too strong. She kills the boy, and her parents have to sort out the mess. Uncle Will, Peter Radley's fully fledged vampire brother, arrives to help with the crisis.
Don't dismiss The Radleys as something that has been done before. You might be tired of reading about romanticised bloodsuckers, but Haig's novel is a long way away from the yards of black-covered youth fiction vampire books weighing down the shelves in your local bookstore.
The Radleys is original, disturbing, entertaining and non-romantic. This is a thriller and at times Haig sinks his teeth into his material with no holds barred. The Radleys is a novel for young adults, not early teens and there is a adult content and strong language throughout.
It is not surprising that Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is planning a film version of The Radleys because the story and characters are original and thrilling. Get in there first and read the novel about the new vampire family on the block. It will entertain, perhaps disturb, and get you looking at the people next door with suspicion.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com