Newcomers may need a primer to understand the relationships at the heart of Anne Rice's latest novel, but fans will recognize it as her best work in years. Elegantly written, MERRICK centers on the title character, a voodoo witch imposed upon by two vampires to raise a ghost. Rice pens an emotional, well-detailed story of black magic, intrigue and forbidden love, without surrendering pace. Laced with several surprises, including appearances by the dormant vampire Lestat, and the long-dead Claudia, MERRICK is a flawless addition to the author's "Vampire Chronicles" series.
Through the voice of frequent narrator David Talbot, we meet Merrick Mayfair, a gifted voodoo witch and distant relation to the stars of Rice's other series (THE WITCHING HOUR, LASHER, TALTOS). David reluctantly asks her to conjure the ghost of the child vampire, Claudia, for the vampire Louis. The request is made because Louis, consumed with guilt over Claudia's life and death, is obsessed with learning that her spirit is at rest. But David's ulterior motive is to rekindle a relationship. Cut off from his former life as leader of the secretive order of "psychic detectives," the Talamasca, when he became a vampire, David is drawn to reconnect with Merrick, his former student and lover. The story unfolds as David, in crisp British tones, alternates between the preparations to raise the ghost of Claudia and recollections of Merrick's life.
The author leads us through this engaging story with her trademark style of writing, laying bare the hearts of all three principles with lyrical phrasing and eloquent emotions: "If you'd come up to me with no preamble," she said, "whispering in a crowd as you touched me --- I would have known you, known who you were." The narrative is free of the severe excess of physical detail that mires the pacing of several of her recent novels, including MEMNOCH THE DEVIL and PANDORA. Readers will find this seventh installment in her vampire saga quite the page-turner.
Also compelling is the character of Merrick, herself. A Talamasca scholar, she is a native of New Orleans, descended from Haitian slaves and the white Mayfair clan. Haunted by her own tragic past and at times vengeful, Merrick is as devoted to David Talbot as he continues to be to her. Merrick turns the world of the Immortals on its ear with a scheme of her own, revealing the secret motivations of Claudia and causing the enigmatic Talamasca to go to war with Lestat's coven. Merrick promises to be as adventurous a character as Lestat ever was.
Not surprisingly, the book ends in a cliffhanger. The concluding scenes of MERRICK will leave readers breathless and hungering for more.
Reviewed by Sofrina Hinton on October 17, 2000