Dracula is told in the form of diary entries, letters and the odd newspaper article, switching back and forth between the main characters. The book begins with Jonathan Harker’s diary, recounting his trip to Transylvania and the home of Count Dracula. Jonathan, a newly qualified solicitor, makes the journey on behalf of his employer Peter Hawkins to help the Count with his purchase of a house in England. Along the way, he encounters the superstitions of the local people and their strange, frightened reactions at any mention of the Count.
In Castle Dracula, Jonathan at first finds the Count a pleasant and amiable man, despite some slightly odd behaviour. However, it soon becomes clear that he is being held a prisoner in the castle. Jonathan notices that Dracula never eats, only appears at night, has no servants and no reflection in his mirror! While searching for a way out of the castle, Jonathan finds himself under the spell of three predatory female vampires, narrowly escaping with his life when the Count bursts angrily into the room. It becomes apparent that there is no escape, and that Jonathan will never be allowed to leave. Then one night, Jonathan notices the Count climb out of his window and crawl down the steep wall of the castle. Though he is horrified, Jonathan hopes that by imitating him he might climb to freedom. It is here that we leave Jonathan, unsure of what his fate may be.
The story now switches to Whitby in England, told through the letters and diary entries of Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina Murray, and her friend Lucy Westenra. Lucy is a popular and pretty young woman who has attracted many admirers and has recently become engaged. Her life, however, is soon turned upside down by the arrival of Dracula in Whitby. As the Count begins to pull Lucy further under his spell, Mina grows increasingly worried about Jonathan. Finally, she hears from a hospital in Budapest; Jonathan is alive but tortured by nightmares and raving about strange horrors.
Mina travels to Budapest to marry and look after Jonathan, while Lucy returns home to London, followed by the Count. Lucy’s condition worsens daily, and her fiancé Arthur begs his friend Dr. Seward to come and look at her. Dr. Seward, in his turn, writes to Van Helsing, his old professor and friend in Amsterdam. Together, they try to help Lucy by giving her multiple blood transfusions, but nothing they do can save her. However the real horror has only just begun…
The dead Lucy transforms into a vampire, and begins to prey on children living in the area of her tomb. Van Helsing, suspecting what she has become, convinces her fiancé and her other admirers, Dr. Seward and the American Quincey, to visit her grave at night. When vampire Lucy appears, the group drive a stake into her heart to end her evil existence. They are determined to track down the monster that did this to her, so Van Helsing writes to Mina, hoping she may be able to shed some light on events in Whitby. Mina does better: she shows Jonathan’s Transylvania diary to the professor. Now the hunt is on, and the vampire hunters – Arthur, Dr. Seward, Quincey, Van Helsing, and Mina and Jonathan Harker – agree to stop at nothing in their mission to destroy the Count.
Dracula, aware of their plotting, quickly retaliates by feeding on Mina and forcing her to drink some of his own blood, tainting her with his evil. He then puts an escape plan into motion and is soon on his way back to Transylvania. The vampire hunters, determined to save Mina’s soul, pursue him across Europe, finally cornering him near his own castle. In the ensuing fight with the men protecting the Count’s coffin, Quincey receives a mortal wound. Finally, Jonathan plunges his knife into Dracula’s throat and Quincey stabs the heart, removing the curse from Mina's soul. Count Dracula and all the evil he has spread have been destroyed forever.