Heard of a new book called The Dracula Dossier by James Reese? The novel is a what-if scenario—as in what if Dracula was inspired by the nocturnal serial killer known as Jack the Ripper? It’s another entry in the ballooning genre known as the intellectual thriller, or the literary thriller, or Thriller Where Famous Authors Chase After Killers Shouting “Stop! Stop, I Say!”
According to the synopsis from HarperCollins, Bram Stoker goes trolling about in Whitechapel and…
Little does he know that just a few steps away, the crime spree of the century has begun: a vicious killer has claimed his first victim, a local prostitute. And Stoker somehow becomes the prime suspect. To clear his name, he enlists some of his illustrious friends, including Walt Whitman, Lady Jane Wilde (mother of Oscar), and the million-copy-selling Victorian novelist Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine. When they discover that the murder weapon is a Gurkha knife owned by Stoker and recently stolen from his home, there can be no doubt that the elusive American doctor—Francis Tumblety—is the very same man terrorizing and taunting London as Jack the Ripper.
So yes, Bram Stoker, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde’s mom, and Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine (and William Butler Yeats, though he isn’t mentioned here) team up to chase Jack the Ripper. The prime suspect is Tumblety, who, after the ceremony of “The Order of the Golden Dawn” becomes a “vessel for the Egyptian god Set.”
There’s really only one way to finish a story with this kind of premise, so if you’ll allow me…
Stoker and Co. pursue Tumblety. The god Set then possesses Friedrich Nietzsche, who summons an army of Egyptian zombies to terrorize London and stop the intrepid investigators. Thomas Hardy’s brain is nearly devoured when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle eradicates the zombie menace with a hail of machine gun fire from atop his battle zeppelin, “Touie.”
Meanwhile, Robert Louis Stevenson actually creates the fantastic elixir that changes him into Mr. Hyde, and having transformed into the monster he bashes the hapless Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s skull in with a cane. But ah!—we find that the cases are connected, for the arrested Stevenson madly claims he himself was in thrall of Mayan rain god Chac Balam, who (as well you know) would be in confederacy with Set.
Noting that ancient gods are blamed for the foul play, Stoker and Co. then seek out George Bernard Shaw, the leader of the shadowy cult, The Brotherhood of Deities Pleasant and Unpleasant. Shaw is predictably enraged to hear that prostitutes are being murdered, and he relinquishes a letter he received from Jack the Ripper himself. In it the murderer confides his plans to slaughter actress Sarah Bernhardt, and H.G. Wells traces the letter to an apartment in Kensington.
(It is at this point that Yeats falls in love with Bernhardt, and Whitman falls in love with Wilde. Neither affair pans out.)
Our detectives arrive at Hyde Park to witness a drunken pistol duel between Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain. After they successfully halt the kerfuffle, Twain disparages Stoker for being a one-book whizbang, and Stoker calls Twain a blustery yokel. Tempers flare, and Twain fires his pistol at Stoker, but he misses and hits Charles Darwin, who happened to be passing through the park that day. Henry James arrives on the scene to lecture on the peculiar differences between Americans and Europeans.
Stoker and Co. find the Kensington apartment and are immediately attacked by a mad literary critic swinging an umbrella, but he is put down by an expert shot from Henrik Ibsen and his legendary flaming crossbow (A young Virginia Woolf, however, would never lose her appetite for revenge).
Moments later, our heroes catch the escaping Sigmund Freud, who it turns out, with his malevolent powers of hypnosis, was the true instigator of the crime spree. Jack the Ripper is the chimney sweep from Chapter Two.
I think that’s how the rest of The Dracula Dossier goes, and literature fiends will just eat it up.
I suppose, though, I should have given a spoiler alert… and for that I am sorry.