reviewed live on show by Ro Bennett 11th April 2013
My eldest daughter sent me this book because she said it smelled like my mum and dad’s books did. And it did - so while I was reading it I kept sniffing it too. When I finished it I sent it to my son who is probably sniffing it as we speak...
Apart from that, it is not the sort of book I would normally read and I felt quite dubious about it as it is a horror story and pretty revolting in places. I wouldn’t say it has enhanced my life and has only served to remind me why I don’t like the horror genre and will probably never read one again.
Having said that, it was a gripping page turner but I couldn’t read it at night. It was made into a film in 1983 and if I saw that I would never sleep again! It’s really gruesome.
Set in WW2 Romania, a garrison of German soldiers are assigned to guard a seemingly deserted 500 year old Keep, deep in the Transylvanian Alps. The location is of interest to the Germans because of its strategic position to nearby oil fields. There is something unusual about the keep. Looking as if it has just been built it is inlaid with brass and nickel crosses in every corridor, crosses that the caretaker for the keep exhorts the Germans not to touch.
Captain Klaus Woermann is dismayed when he realises that the Keep is not empty as originally thought, but in fact is home to something ancient, evil, and very powerful. This power then embarks on killing his men. Invisible and silent, the enemy selects one or two victims per night, leaving the bloodless and mutilated corpses behind to terrify its future victims. Captain Woermann sends a message to the high command requesting help. To his dismay, they respond by sending an SS extermination squad under the leadership of the brutal and vicious, Major Kaempffer.
The SS believe the local villagers to be responsible for the horrific murders and embark on a series of atrocities. However, this just seems to make the situation worse and soon, these death's head troopers begin succumbing to the same fate as their German Army counterparts.
The SS have brought along an elderly, sickly, Romanian Jewish professor, Dr Theodore Cuza (played by Ian McKellen in the film) and his daughter Magda because they are experts in the history, folklore and extinct languages of the region. They are instructed to discover who or what is responsible for the gruesome murders.
Then, a mysterious red-headed stranger with piercing blue eyes arrives at the Keep, with an in depth knowledge of the place and what lies within....
It is gripping, it is scary and the author has clearly researched wartime Romania well, but I still wouldn’t read it again and it hasn’t enticed me to read anything else like it.