The Vampire of Ropraz
Bitter Lemon, Apr2009, $12.95
In 1903 in Ropraz, Switzerland, a young woman dies from meningitis. Soon after she is buried, her tomb is opened and she has been defiled by someone who sliced off a hand, mutilated her virginal genitals, and ripped out her heart. The residents of the Jura Mountain village are horrified by the depraved defilation and many believe no Godly person could have done the deed. The villagers believe something paranormally evil did the deed.. Garlic is hung everywhere and no one goes anywhere without wearing a cross; nocturnal activity is almost nonexistent.
Two more corpses are found as mutilated as that of the young girl. Suspicion falls on stable boy Favez due to his being a loner and more so because of his eyes, which are a bit more reddish than normal. He is arrested and sent to an asylum to receive psychiatric help.
This is an interesting fictionalization of a true crime incident in which the reactions to the depravity is the prime emphasis instead of the horror or the inquiry. In 106 pages, Jacques Chessex contrasts the pristine cold beauty of the region to the cold-blooded horrific defiling acts and the reactions of the locals who turn to superstition to ward off evil. Although not a supernatural thriller as the title is a metaphor and neither a police procedural investigative tale, THE VAMPIRE OF ROPRAZ is a fine historical tale that looks deep at Swiss villagers’ reactions to gruesome deeds at the turn of the previous century with a fitting final spin.