The Radleys, author Matt Haig takes a look at a family of vampires living today in northern England. Father Peter is a doctor, while Helen, the mother, is an artist who doesn't work outside the home. The two teenaged children, Rowan and Clara, have been raised without knowing they are vampires. They are pale, regarded by their classmates as strange, and constantly ill. Peter and Helen have determined to live as "abstainers" -- vampires who attempt to overcome their craving for blood by following the advice in The Abstainer's Handbook.
Things would have probably gone on like this for the foreseeable future, except for an unfortunate incident involving Clara. One evening she is attending an outside party with Eve, a new girl at school, when she begins to feel ill. Clara starts walking home, but one of the drunken boys follows her and refuses to leave her alone, even after she throws up on his shoes. He becomes more violent, and, without really knowing what she is doing, Clara transforms into her vampire self and kills him. She is understandably confused about what has happened, so she calls her parents in a panic. They arrive and her father is able to fly the body out to sea to get rid of it. Then the parents are in the awkward position of having to explain to their children that they are vampires.
While in a panic over the situation, Peter makes a call to his estranged brother Will. Will is a very active vampire, killing anyone who attracts his attention. His negative influence is one reason why Peter and Helen have chosen to distance themselves from him. He shows up and parks his somewhat distinctive van outside the Radley's respectable suburban house.
With the taste of blood, Clara has transformed into a beautiful, calm and confident girl. Rowan becomes very interested in the possibility that he might also feel better if he indulged in blood also. Uncle Will is, of course, all for the children to become their true vampire selves. Some members of the police force are aware of the activities of the vampires in their communities, but they have a truce with the Sheridan Society, a vampire association which attempts to keep the more rogue vampires in check.
Unfortunately, Clara's victim washes up on a beach and is quickly identified as being the victim of a vampire. The police are sniffing around, and there is a great deal of tension between Uncle Will and the rest of his family. Can the Radleys continue to live among regular society, or will they be punished for their vampire activities?
The book is interesting in that the author has created a vampire society which has its own rules. Crosses don't bother vampires in this book, but they do become violently ill if they accidentally ingest garlic. They can inherit their vampire charistics, or they can be "converted" by a practicing vampire. Many famous people throughout history were vampires, including Lord Byron and Jimi Hendrix. Most chapters begin with some instructions for vampires from The Abstainer's Handbook.
The book is a rather pleasant addition to modern vampire literature. The chapters are short and the book moves quickly.
Final Verdict for The Radleys: Three Gherkins, for being an interesting, if somewhat predictable vampire tale
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