Sometimes you come across a lesser known work by a famous author (especially if they're famous for one work only) and it's astonishing just how different it is from their crowning achievement. This is what happened when I came across two books by Bram Stoker which were collected into one volume. Bram Stoker's name is nearly synonymous with vampire because of Dracula but that was not the only book that he wrote. The introduction to the two books discusses how Dracula eclipsed his later (and earlier) writings and he goes on at length about Stoker's merits as a writer. I give all of this background because if I hadn't already read Dracula then I would be very hard-pressed to do so after reading The Lair of the White Worm and The Lady of the Shroud. It's not that they were the worst books I had ever read but there wasn't anything noteworthy about them and truly it took me far longer to plod through them than I would have liked.
In brief, The Lair of the White Worm focuses on a young man named Adam Salton who discovers that he has a relative outside of his native Australia who very much wants to meet him. After arriving, he is drawn into a supernatural melodrama which concerns virtually everyone in the neighborhood. As the title of the book suggests, there is a myth concerning a giant white worm which was thought to once be a dragon that terrorized the land. Myth states that the lair may still house the creature but by this time it may have evolved into a more human shape. Adam and his co-conspirators are charged with discovering if the myth is indeed factual and if so then to destroy the creature before it causes irreversible damage. There's romance (much sped up), intrigue, racial slurs (addressed in the introduction which didn't help), and Drama. Yes, I said Drama. If this was supposed to leave me quaking in my boots then it utterly failed. I didn't find this in the least frightening. However, I did find it incredibly predictable. I'd give it a 4/10 and that's probably being generous.
The second book in the collection, The Lady of the Shroud, was somewhat better. For one thing, it was slightly less predictable than The Lair of the White Worm. There were definitely more twists and turns so the danger that the characters faced seemed more ramped up and exciting. There were a few things working against it though. For example, the two main characters were completely without flaws which kept me from fully immersing myself in the story. A giant of a man who is good at every single thing that he does? A woman with stars in her eyes (I am not paraphrasing. This was the description of her eyes every single time.) who merely by a look conveys every emotion that imparts grace and goodness? Besides that, it was most definitely too long. I am convinced that the story could have been told in a much more concise manner. By dragging things out, my interest was eventually strained and I was looking ahead to see how many pages I had left until the end. And that was not in the "oh no I'm nearly finished whatever will I do with my time now?!" kind of way either. I'd say this was probably a 5.5/10.
As always, I encourage you to take a look at the book(s) and form your own opinions. It could be that I was expecting too much because Dracula created a precedent of excellence. Ah well!