The Mouse and the Candle
by Matthew S. Cox
Publisher: Curiosity Quills
Genres: Horror, Dark Fantasy,
Release date: July 18, 2016
God’s will be done..
After eleven years as a priest living by these words, Father Antonio Molinari never imagined who would teach his strongest lesson of faith―a vampire.
Part of a secret order within the Vatican, he is sent to investigate and debunk supernatural events. A case of possession brings him to the French countryside, where two local clergy offer him the chance of a lifetime. They claim to have captured a vampire, and beg his expertise in helping them study the fiend.
When their monster turns out to be a little girl, cursed to spend eternity hiding from the sun, he cannot bring himself to destroy her. The priests, mistaking his compassion for diabolism, panic, and his efforts to protect an innocent child prove fatal.
He awakes caught between light and darkness.
Hunted by the Church he once served as well as the fiends he once destroyed, Father Molinari clings to the faith there is still room for him in God’s plan.
But God is quiet, and the darkness tempting
The hair on the back of Molinari’s neck rose. With each step deeper into the earth, his unease mounted. Renault stopped at the closed door. Flickering lamplight wavered on the walls, casting the man’s jowls in grotesque shadow. He hesitated at touching it, as if petrified of what lay inside. Up close, it became clear they had nailed the hooks in place themselves. The nails looked more bent than driven. Father Molinari’s throat tightened with worry. Any vampire he’d tangled with could rip the door open with ease.
The heavyset priest glanced at Molinari as if seeking counsel.
Father Callini sidled up at his left, terror warring with eagerness in his countenance. At Molinari’s nod, Renault lifted the bar from the hooks and set it upright against the wall. He unlocked the door with an iron key and gave it a push.
Molinari, hands clenched to fists to keep them from shaking, approached the creaking portal. The sight within the eight-by-ten foot cell took the breath from his lungs.
Huddled at the center of the rear wall, shivered a tiny wisp of a girl. Pale, with dark chestnut hair and the face of an angel, she clutched a ragdoll to her chest. Her white silk nightdress bore smudges and dirt where her knees had pressed it to the floor. Bare toes peeked out from the hem. A length of chain emerged from between her feet and curved around to the wall at her side where it secured to a ring.
Molinari’s heart beat in long, labored thuds as he glanced at a frayed bundle of rope on the right side of the room, and to a red velvet cord a little more than two feet in from the door. The child drew herself in tight. Faded bruises circling both wrists tugged at his heartstrings. Too-wide green eyes seemed to stare straight into his soul.
“What in the name of God is this?” Molinari caught himself yelling.
He made to rush in, but the priests grabbed his arms.
“Father, no,” yelled Renault. “It is a deceiver.”
“Do not step past the line.” Father Callini indicated the red cord. “That is as far as its claws can reach.”
Molinari threw them off, but held his ground. “What have you done? She is a child!”
“It is a beast.” Father Renault made the sign of the cross over himself.
“I will not be part of this madness.” Molinari again tried to approach, but the younger man held him back. “Release this child at once.”
“Father, look,” whispered Renault. “She smells your wound.”
His struggle with Callini ceased. Molinari glanced at his bandaged hand, at the blood soaked into the fabric. The child stared with rapt attention at the cloth. He moved his hand from side to side as if waving a treat at a dog. The girl tracked it as an earnestness took over her features. She shifted her weight, a light clatter of chain on stone accompanying the slight movement.
Father Callini took note of his testing the girl’s reaction and let go. Molinari entered the room, but stopped where the velvet rope crossed from wall to wall. He held out his injured hand. The child’s expression fell to a sad pout.
“Please, help me,” she whispered in French.
“It tries to deceive,” whispered Callini. “God will give you strength.”
Father Molinari’s face warmed with anger. “This cannot be. You are mistaken. What crime could such a small child have committed to be treated in such a manner?”
Callini reached in and unwound the bandage. The girl appeared transfixed by the dripping wound. Such silence permeated the room that the pat of a droplet striking stone seemed loud. She set her doll down and braced her hands flat against the stone on either side of her. Weak red luminescence lit her eyes. Her lips twitched and tiny fangs extended.
“No…” Molinari stared in horror as the child balanced up on her toes and slid forward onto her knees.
The chain dragged behind her as she crawled; small shackles intended for a woman’s wrists bound her ankles. She sniffed at the air for a second before she lunged, emitting a mixture of childish pleading mewls and angry canine growls. Her fingertips came within a half-inch of the demarcation after the tether cut her leap short. She could not get her face close to the droplets. After a few seconds of futile straining, the girl wiped at them with her hand and licked her palm.
Molinari took a step back, covering his mouth. Tears rolled from his eyes. Images of an arrogant Viennese man in a frilled collar, pale as death, cruel, and responsible for dozens of murders flashed through his mind. His laughter echoing at a party―the arrogant disdain with which he flung a dead woman from a bridge into the river, fanged mouth gaping open in the last seconds of his existence. How could God allow such a fate to befall an innocent?
The child whined and whimpered, reaching for Molinari. Glowing eyes faded and surged, as if a child and something else warred for control. She begged for help―it demanded food.
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What inspired the plot with the church?
“Thanks for letting me invade your blog during the Chiaroscuro release tour!
I’ve been asked about the religious theme of the book, or what inspired me to write a storyline involving the church. A lot of that came from the concept of the main character, Father Molinari. Years ago, I had a character concept for a priest who volunteered to become a vampire in order to basically “go undercover” among the undead to help the church win the war against them. The crux of the character was his struggle to hold on to his faith while his humanity slipped away, and his gradual realization that not all vampires were the fiends he’d been conditioned to believe them to be.
The idea for Chiaroscuro came from an image I stumbled across depicting a vampire child who appeared to be locked in a cell. (Granted, that picture made the girl look far less innocent than Sabine is). That got my brain gnawing on some conceptual ideas for a story, which combined with the priest-vampire concept. Unlike the original priest idea, in Chiaroscuro, the decision to become a vampire is not Molinari’s. He isn’t expecting it at all. The original concept of the “inside man” didn’t happen here, though I did slip in a reference to it for a very small group of people who might read this book and might remember that old character.
As much as the story is about Molinari’s efforts to save Sabine’s soul, the primary underlying theme is his internal struggle to keep true to his faith while fighting mounting doubt about the direction his life (or unlife rather) has taken.
Back to the presence of the church in the book… a priest main character demanded a liberal involvement of church/religious themes. The mythology of vampires I’ve created is based on their existence being a form of punishment or absence of divine power. Within this world, the farther from the light a soul goes, the more short term power they get as a vampire, but the worse off they are whenever they meet their final demise. The more an individual craves power or holds on to feelings such as anger, jealousy, or a need to dominate/control others, the less able they are to resist the temptation of darkness.
I also find stories that show a hidden side of the church intriguing. Plots where the church has knowledge (perhaps even genuine supernatural rites) that they keep hidden from the general population always keep me interested. There’s always that little whisper of ‘what if this was real’ with any story like The Exorcist, or Omen and so on. So in short, with a priest main character and a primary story element of a crisis of faith, having the church as a major backdrop element was all but required.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the story!”
There is so much I could say about this book. I really don’t know where to start. I have read some of the other reviews pertaining to this tour, and some of them have mentioned that this book is too long. How is this possible? When a book is this compelling, and draws a person in the way this drew me in, there is no such thing as too long. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It wasn’t nearly long enough. I craved more, just as Sabine craved more of Molinari’s blood. The plot was well written, and very well thought out. This wasn’t a haphazardly thrown together book. This is a book that starts out a bit slow, yes, but then, just when you think there’s nothing to it? BAM! It grabs you! It pulls you in, and there is no turning back. You are a gonner. You are flying through fields and trees like Molinari after sucking the life out of poor little Sabine. There is so much to read in this book. Another reader made mention of another vampire series. That series isn’t even in the same universe as this book. Not even close. Matthew Cox knows how to write. It’s like gold flowing throw his fingertips. The story line was compelling, the ending will leave you wanting more, and I pray that Matthew Cox delivers more! Well done, Matthew Cox, well done!
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