First published in June of 2010, ‘The Radleys’ was the eighth novel to be released by Sheffield born author Matt Haig.

DLS Synopsis:
The Radleys live in a decidedly average and understated suburban house in the North of England.  From the outside, the Radleys’ home and lifestyle appears to be quite middle-of-the-road; their car and all-round decor purposefully of a wholesome ‘family’ choice.  However, the Radleys aren’t the average run-of-the-mill family.  They are in fact a family of abstaining vampires.

Peter and Helen Radley have chosen to bring up their two children (Rowan and Clara) away from the knowledge of the family’s dark secret.  Rowan is a quiet, reclusive teenage boy who finds himself struggling with acceptance amongst his peers.  Clara, although equally unaware of her vampiric bloodline, seems to tackle her day-to-day life a little better.

However, when Clara is attacked by a drunken school bully after a late night party, she fights back against her attacker with everything she's got, only to succumb to an uncontrollable blood frenzy upon accidentally tasting some of the boy’s blood.  The boy - Stuart Harper - is killed and his body savagely mutilated by the uncontrollable bloodlust of Clara.

Clara phones her parents for help after her senses return to her, whereby Peter comes to her rescue, dashing off the boy’s ravaged corpse into the sea before it can be discovered.  Panicking, Peter calls upon the aid of his brother, Will Radley, a well-respected and notorious ‘acting’ vampire.  Will manages to further cover the tracks of Clara’s bloody murder by blood-minding (a form of suggestive mind control performed by acting vampires) the police.

But upon learning their true heritage, more home truths quickly begin to unravel, swallowing up the family and their neighbouring friends.  And in the middle of the emotional turmoil is a struggling young boy whose love for his sister’s best friend is tearing him apart.

More secrets are about to surface, and with them comes further bloodshed and life changing decisions for the vampire abstaining family...

DLS Review:
Not exactly a horror novel per se, Matt Haig’s black comedy vampire tale ‘The Radleys’ deals more with the emotional turmoil of the family unit as they try to deal with the tricky situation of the accidental murder of Stuart Harper, than that of any other plotline.

Laced with unceremonious black comedy from the outset, the story plays along with the quietly surreal concept of real-to-life vampires in our modern day world.  The existence of these vampires is not overbearingly portrayed amongst the trivialities of our own lifestyles.  Yes, certain high-ranking members of the police force are aware of the vampire community and keep a careful watchful eye on them.  But this side of the plot doesn’t take up too much precedence on the overall storyline. 

The character of Rowan Radley is certainly likeable and easy-to-identify-with.  Centred predominately (but by no means exclusively) around Rowan, the tale leans heavily towards a coming-of-age storyline, which should typically draw in the reader with relative ease.

Alas, where the novel fails the most is with its relatively bland approach to dealing with a potentially exciting premise.  The literary punches fall short each and every time, with the purposefully impactful moments too understated and quickly washed over.  Every aspect of the unfolding story has a diluted quality to it, missing the mark on each account.  The comedy is a mere whisper in the air, the horror just a mild suggestion, the characters just short of endearing, and the storyline just too bare and hollow to keep the reader enthralled.

For a mild read without too much care for the tale, ‘The Radleys’ is an easy to read and jolly piece of escapism.  The characters are lively and playful in their struggles with their individual places in the family.  As a whole the book is quite enjoyable in its carefree simplicity. 

However, for anything more, the novel sadly falls short.  Once finished, it’s unlikely that you’ll remember much of the story after a mere week or two.  The tragic lack of depth to the characters and the plot as a whole leaves the novel feeling relatively bland and easily forgotten.

The final nail in the coffin is the somewhat confusing target audience for the book.  Is this aimed at a teenage audience?  After reading the book, it seems to strongly veer towards the ‘teenage acceptance’ issues, not really managing to pluck on the wistful heartstrings of a more adult reader.  But then why has the book not been appropriately advertised and marked in such a way?

Not the most engaging and gripping of reads, but quite a jolly little soiree into the family issues of an abstaining vampire family nonetheless.

The novel runs for a total of 393 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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