New Orleans Fang Fest, 1995.
Mina’s having a summer to die for.
17-year-old Mina, from England, arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. After growing up in Whitby, the town that inspired Dracula, Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie. She can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…
And it gets even better when Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate, co-worker and fellow horror enthusiast.
But the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s… Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.
Hi and welcome to my review of Mina and the Undead! With praise from Kat Ellis (Harrow Lake) and Alex Bell (Music and Malice in Hurricane Town), and Dawn Kurtagich describing this as “a fun romp through nineties pop culture” I just had to get me a piece of Mina!
The year is 1995 and seventeen-year-old Mina has left England behind for a summer holiday in New Orleans, visiting her estranged sister who works in a horror movie mansion, where tourists can go on a tour and come face to face with any horror character from Pennywise the clown over Freddy Krueger and Chuckie to Lestat the vampire. Seriously, I’d run out the door at the first whiff of clown make-up, but Mina not only loves it, she lands herself a part-time job. And a huge crush on Lestat, or rather the gorgeous guy who plays the part of Lestat in the mansion. But then the murders start, re-enactments of the most infamous and ruthless New Orleans myths, and it’s Mina’s sister who is the main suspect. What was supposed to be a fun summer holiday goes to hell in a handbasket really fast!
Mina and the Undead was the perfect fit for me! I’m a nineties child myself, inevitably I have fond memories of the music, TV shows and films of the decade. It’s the period I myself fell in love with horror, so I felt right at home with Mina and her love of all things horror. I also love fiction set in New Orleans, I just adore that southern muggy and Gothic atmosphere and Amy McCaw gets it down to a T.
Mina and the Undead is more than just a “fun romp”, it’s an homage to nineties pop culture, especially the horror movies. It’s practically a celebration of the vampire subculture: Dracula, The Lost Boys and especially Interview with the Vampire. I saw the film way back when but I listened to the novel just a few weeks ago, so I loved all these references. (If you haven’t seen the film or read the book, you’ll be fine though, prior knowledge is not a requisite, it just made it even more fun for me.) I flew through parts of the books, but other parts went very slowly because I kept looking stuff up. I watched music videos on YouTube of songs I hadn’t thought about in years, I read up on Interview with the Vampire and I Googled photos of certain scenes and characters to remind myself of what they looked like so I could picture things as Amy McCaw intended me to. In that way, Mina and the Undead was a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
Besides pop culture, Mina and the Undead is founded in New Orleans mythology and I love how the author brought all these parts together in one coherent whole as if it was always meant to be. One of the myths that plays a large part – including by diary entries Mina reads – is the Carter brothers vampire legend. Of course I found myself Googling them, as I wanted to know whether they’d sprouted from Amy’s imagination, or were real (or as real as any myth can be) and I found a bunch of fascinating articles about them. What can I say except New Orleans is even higher up on my bucket list than it was before, but in the meantime Mina and the Undead was just the thing to keep me going!
Mina and the Undead is such a brilliant book, from the cover over the page decorations to the actual story! It is entertaining throughout, atmospheric yet fast-paced, steeped in pop culture and mythology and I had a ball from start to finish. Highly recommended!
Mina and the Undead is out on 1 April.
Huge thanks to Graeme Williams and uclan publishing for the stunning finished copy! All opinions are my own.