There’s no getting around it: there are an awful lot of vampire books out there, especially ones that are aimed at a younger audience (though I’m not entirely sure this one is). So in my view, it takes an enormous amount of chutzpah to crank out another one. I mean, can The Radleys possibly offer anything new?
Okay, so what have we got? The Radleys are your fairly typical family living the suburban village dream. The parents are sick of each other and their teenage children are sick of their parents. On top of this, there’s the added complication that the parents, Peter and Helen, are “abstaining” vampires hiding out in rural England. This less-than-idyllic life comes to an abrupt end when their daughter Clara comes of age and accidentally kills a boy from her school.
I don’t think this book is one that’s going to stay with me, but it’s still a really good read. The strength of Matt Haig’s writing is the humanity he brings to what could’ve been a rather dull murder fest. The writing doesn’t go over the top with flowery prose, preferring instead to get straight to the point with a poetic flourish. The characters are what I would call typically suburban, though the whole vampire thing provides a gripping twist on everyday family life. Still, the problem with suburban typically is that they can be quite hard to separate out; there’s nothing really extraordinarily about them … even if they’re vampires.
But for suspense, The Radleys is hard to beat. I was gripped from page one, and the sense of foreboding didn’t let up until the last few pages. The pacing was excellent: nothing was rushed, but you still get the feeling of life speeding up as the family’s lives spin out if control.
Great to see a portrayal of vampires that’s so far from the ordinary, even if it did make them seem a little ordinary than I perhaps would’ve liked.