"STOKER'S MANUSCRIPT," by Royce Prouty, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $26.95, 338 pages (f)

"Stoker's Manuscript," by Royce Prouty, will draw in readers, regardless if they are fans of Dracula or vampire stories, and keep them up reading at night.

It's well-written — detailed enough to draw clear pictures of the landscape, the characters and the history — and it flows.

Revolving around Joseph Barkeley, a brilliant rare book collector who is asked to search for the prologue and epilogue pages of the Bram Stoker manuscript (the original Dracula story), the novel quickly becomes a story of intrigue, careful exploration and bloodlust.

Yet somehow it steers clear of gore and actual sex. (Dracula needs to find his undead wife and breed a new generation of vampires, but the need is referred to as coupling rather than sex so it doesn't have high sexual color.)

It's a story that's difficult to put down as Barkeley analyzes his journey, his discoveries and his companions along the way. He walks a tightrope between his "master" employer's demands and avoiding personal peril.

It's immensely interesting and, if you want to understand Stoker's thinking, tells the story of Dracula without beating the reader over the head with tedium.

Prouty has obviously done his research and his findings are shared with ease.

There is descriptive violence and a lot of impalement as human slaves meet their demise at Dracula's birthday parties.

There's also a good sense of tension throughout as Barkeley visits old castles, ancient cemeteries, dark forests and crypts. The noose begins to tighten once he agrees to the job.

Dracula is pretty smelly, pretty repulsive and totally ruthless, so the story doesn't lend itself to bedtime story hour.

For vampire aficionados and even for those with just a vague interest, it's a captivating read.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com