With Merrick, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles return firmly to New Orleans. As the novel opens, the vampire David Talbot approaches a witch named Merrick Mayfair, requesting that she contact the spirit of the child vampire Claudia, so Louis de Pointe du Lac can attempt to make peace with her.
As it turns out, I recently had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans, and this is the book I brought along with me. It was a delight to read the novel while surrounded by the locations described. What’s more, the novel was set in the spring time, so the weather was very much like that described in the novel, with a mix of rain showers and gentle, cool and humid conditions. It was a joy to experience many of the sensations and smells described in the novel as I read it.
As with The Vampire Armand, Merrick only moves the story of the Vampire Chronicles forward a small amount, bringing some sense of closure to the story of Lestat, Louis, and Claudia started in the first book of the series Interview With The Vampire. Most of the novel concerns how Merrick Mayfair was recruited by the Talamasca—an organization looking into the truth behind the supernatural.
When David first meets Merrick, he is human and the Superior General of the Talamasca. Merrick is a troubled child whose mother and sister had just died. She’s being raised by a powerful witch called Great Nananne. The Talamasca adopts Merrick when Great Nananne dies. Merrick takes advantage of the situation to gain knowledge and wealth, which gives her the ability to find out what happened to her mother and sister, as well as travel to Central America where she acquires a powerful, spiritual artifact.
As the story progresses, we learn that Merrick is infatuated with the much-older David. This infatuation is augmented now that he’s in a much younger body with the allure of a vampire. Whereas The Vampire Armand reintroduced us to many of the vampires from the Chronicles, this novel remained focused on Lestat, Louis, David, Claudia, and Merrick.
As with other entries in the Vampire Chronicles, Rice shows prowess with horror itself. Many of the scenes where Merrick summons spirits are genuinely frightening. Anne Rice also shows us that humans with power can frighten even the oldest and most powerful vampires into action.
On reflection, I found this to be my favorite entry in the Vampire Chronicles since the first two novels in the series. It tells a fairly straightforward story and resolves issues left open from those first novels. I think its focus on a few of the vampires strengthened the novel. My perception of the novel is no doubt colored by my enjoyment of reading it in New Orleans, but I don’t think you’d need to wait to make a trip to the Big Easy to delve in.