On an overnight ferry between Sweden and Finland, what should have been a routine cruise becomes a night of terror as the passengers and crew find themselves under attack by people, who have become vampires….
Mats Strandberg, the author of Blood Cruise, first came to my attention when, along with Sara B Elfgren, they co-authored The Engelsfors Trilogy, a series about a group of teenage girls who discover they are witches. It’s a damn good trilogy, well worth checking out.
Blood Cruise, is more of an outright horror than the Engelsfors trilogy was. The basic set-up, we have seen before if I’m honest, in that Strandberg introduces his characters, with each chapter told from the point of view of one of them, with occasional chapters giving a more overview of events at key moments. And it has the assorted characters you would expect. There is Marianne, a retired woman who makes a last minute decision to join the cruise; Albin, a boy who’s adopted parents have their own issues, who wants to see his cousin Lo, only to discover she has changed; Dan a washed-up minor singing star reduced to running the Karaoke on the ship; Madde a woman who wants to have fun, hopefully with Dan; Calle who has returned to the ship with his boyfriend with the intent on proposing. There are other assorted characters that Strandberg introduces as well and he does with great skill. When the chaos begins on board and the characters strive to survive, he makes you care for them as you wonder who will live and die as the story progresses.
Strandberg also takes his time developing the panic and terror. It would have been easy to begin the horror much earlier than Blood Cruise does, but he lets it start small, with a mysterious boy and the woman he is with, then builds it in a controlled manner.
Until all hell breaks loose on board. But even then Strandberg keeps focused on his characters. He also, as good authors do, inserts little moments early in the book, that are resolved later on. I love details like that.
The book builds to a terrific climax on the boat one that does surprise in some ways. It also leaves little details that could, perhaps, be setting up a follow-up novel, should Strandberg wishes to continue the story.
I really liked this book. It’s very well written, it grips and you tear through it once you get into it. The basic story itself may not be truly original, people on a journey get caught up in horrible events, something done in various genres over the years. But it’s how you tell a story that’s important and Mats Strandberg writes it very well.
Blood Cruise is a tremendous novel and horror fans or fans of films such as Train To Busan would I think really enjoy it.
I know I did.
Rating: **** out of 5