Author:  Tracey Bateman
Title:  Tandem
Publisher:  WaterBrook Press

At first blush, Tandem is a contradiction in terms: "a vampire tale with an inspirational message"? (Clearly, this is not your mama's Christian fiction.) After reading it, I'm still at a bit of a loss to describe the book. It's not what I'd call a story of redemption and seems a bit tame for a tale about the blood-sucking undead. It's ... interesting.

Tandem is a sequel to Bateman's first vampire novel, Thirsty. I haven't read Thirsty, but didn't find that to be a problem as Tandem stands nicely on its own. The story focuses on Lauryn McBride, a young woman caught between a struggling auction business and her father's rapid descent into Alzheimer's. Lauryn and her dad have been on their own since her mom died; now he's slipping away and Lauryn is left with precious little in the way of relationships.

At least, until Lauryn's high-school crush Billy comes back to town after almost a decade on the mission field in Haiti. Billy is apparently the token Christian character; he's a nice enough guy but lacks dimension. Billy shows up when needed, says the right things, and apparently has no qualms about diving into a relationship with Lauryn despite the fact that he's a minister of the Gospel and she claims not to believe in God. He seemed more plot device than a pastor.

Oh, the vampires? Yes, they're around, too. There's Amede (a name that gave me no end of trouble—how does one pronounce that, exactly?). She's a "good" vampire, satisfying her need to feed on animals rather than humans. Amede assures a character (names have been deleted to protect the plot) that she hasn't fed on a human "for more than a hundred years." I feel better, don't you?

Amede turns up in Lauryn's and Billy's home town in search of her half-sister, Eden, who is most definitely NOT a good vampire. Still, every family has a black sheep and the tie between the two sisters is strong. Problem is, Eden has gone missing. We know what Amede doesn't—Eden is being held captive by an unnamed tormenter. (Er, that's a human tormenter, not the demonic kind, just in case you were wondering.)

Meanwhile, dead bodies drained of blood start popping up all over town. Eden is locked up, Amede doesn't do people ... so who else is undead around here?

I found the most interesting relationship in the book to be the one between Amede and her servant, Juliette. Juliette's family is bound to Amede's family by a blood oath; Juliette just took over from her grandmother, who took over from her mother, who took over from ... you get the idea. If either side breaks the bond, they and their descendants will be cursed. This probably seemed like a pretty good deal when they made it just after the Civil War. But in the new millennium, when the next-in-line companion would rather go to college and study interior design, it doesn't seem quite so appealing.

Can vampires be saved? Amede's father (apparently vampirism is inherited) swore off blood to be more acceptable to God, and suffered a slow, excruciating death as a result. Which begs the question, where is Christ's redemptive work on the cross in all this? I didn't expect an altar call, but still. Salvation by works appears to be the order of the day. That and a heaping helping of nice, fresh blood.


**This review first published on November 2, 2010.