My personal reconstruction of the Dark Shadows universe was made by connecting the books by Marilyn Ross that I could find with the episodes of the television show that I saw. I’ve always been one to try to make a logical storyline out of such things so that I could connect them when they came at irregular intervals. (I’m still a fan of linear storytelling.) So it’s a bit of an eye-opener to read the series of pulps in order. There are continuities and discontinuities. Barnabas, Quentin and the Grave Robbers again has Quentin, in 1830, portrayed as a good guy. When he was first introduced in the series some books back, he was a satanist and very nearly evil. And this was in a more recent era. You get the sense that Ross was responding to fan requests.
As I noted regarding the last book in the series, the stories do seem to have grown more complex, and sophisticated over time. The writing remains labored, but the story aspect improves. Barnabas, Quentin and the Grave Robbers comes the closest to standard horror so far. This is a dark story with problematic race issues thrown in. The first two-thirds or so are set in England and are tied into the story by Barnabas Collins being there. It is distanced from the usual moody setting of Collinwood where, despite all the haunting and troubles, you tend to think things turn out alright in the end. Here the antagonist grave robbers kill people close to the heroine and the corpses sent to gruesome ends. And there are zombies.
To flee the evil ringleader, Barnabas takes Paula Sullivan to Collinwood where Quentin is introduced to the story. In 1830 he’s an unpredictable trickster, but good at heart. He and Barnabas team up, as last time, to take on the grave robber when he moves, you guessed it, next door to Collinwood. Then something unusual happens—Paula discovers zombies are afraid of crosses. This leads to a strange episode of Barnabas—a vampire, remember—chasing a zombie with a cross. In general religious imagery is scarce in these novels. A vicar or two may be mentioned, but vampires aren’t menaced with crosses. That does happen in one of the movies, but here it seems that because Barnabas is a good vampire he’s not bothered by a cross. Or it could be a consistency issue. Either way, this is a moody addition to the series, appropriate, as always, for autumnal reading.