“Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang, a vainglorious and well-established antiques dealer, has made a fortune over many years by globetrotting for the finest lost objects in the world. Only Sax knows the true secret to his success: at certain points of his life, he’s killed vampires for their priceless hoards of treasure.
But now Sax’s past actions are quite literally coming back to haunt him, and the lives of those he holds most dear are in mortal danger. To counter this unnatural threat, and with the blessing of the Holy Roman Church, a cowardly but cunning Sax must travel across Europe in pursuit of incalculable evil—and immeasurable wealth—with a ragtag team of mercenaries and vampire killers to hunt a terrifying, ageless monster…one who is hunting Sax in turn.”
Thoughts on the Novel: Ben Tripp’s vampires are an interesting blend of science and science fiction. His removal of the supernatural element in favor of a more clinically scientific one is a chilling switch that takes the vampire world from improbable to possible, however unlikely. Without an element of magic, evolutionary changes resulting in the vampirism Sax battles is that much more frightening.
Mr. Tripp does not capitalize on this as effectively as he could. There is a dearth of specifics when it comes to detailing the characteristics of these vampires, which somewhat lessens the threat to Sax and his motley group. While there is no doubt that these vampires are extremely dangerous, readers only gleam the true extent of that danger in murky snippets. For, Sax, in all of his explanations, assumes his audience either understands the danger or should remain as ignorant and therefore as innocent as possible. The end result is an impressionistic portrait of the monsters which are less frightening than they would be if there was starker details.
Similarly, Sax is quite the character and one by rights readers should embrace and love. Sadly, the use of derogatory phrases to describe his sexual preferences and behaviors will confuse readers because of their very un-PC nature. It is as if Mr. Tripp uses Sax to declare his tolerance by creating a creature that flaunts every stereotype in existence, but he uses inflammatory language to do so. Moreover, one cannot get through a single descriptive paragraph without a reminder of Sax’s sexual proclivities. While it is a delight to see a character so thoroughly comfortable in his own skin, overtly and happily flouting societal norms, the language Mr. Tripp uses gives the impression that he is not quite so accepting as he wants readers to believe because Sax’s homosexuality never fades into the background or become a nonissue as it should.
No matter what Mr. Tripp may or may not feel towards his main character, in Sax he created a fun character who fully embraces life and his own flaws to live strictly on his terms. His unapologetic nature and acknowledgement of his greed and cowardice only add to his complexity. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast do not measure up to Sax’s spiciness. Rather, they fade into the background besides his showiness. There is also a distinct lack of development in everyone else that minimizes a reader’s emotional involvement. In turn, this lessens the shock value of any character deaths which then diminishes the horror readers will feel.
While The Fifth House of the Heart tries to be an old-fashioned horror novel, it never quite lives up to that distinction. It certainly is gory enough, as Mr. Tripp does not shy away from detailed descriptions of the damage inflicted by pointy objects. Unfortunately, the lack of character development and other flaws within the story diminish the suspense. Without that, it becomes difficult to generate terrore. The result is a gorefest of a novel with glimpses of brilliance but which ultimately leaves a lot of that brilliance unharvested.