★ ★ 1/2
More than anything, this book reminds me of a teenage boy; gawky, awkward, and the wispy remnants of childhood sweetness around the edges. Maybe a few spots on his face, and a tendency to cover seriousness with annoying flippancy, but with the potential to become something interesting in a few years.
The mystery driving the story is mediocre; it is a fairly predictable case of possession and summoning. It’s been used in quite a few urban fantasy books (both detective and a couple of PNR) and there’s nothing that makes it stand out in HDK. What’s slightly unusual is the narrator and his best buddy are a couple of “average Joe” vampires who retain a lot of their humanity. ‘Humanity,’ that is shown in a tendency to play Xbox in their boxers, constantly engage in repartee, and basically live in a bachelor pad strewn with dirty clothes. One has delusions of heroism, displays a tendency to wrap his pudgy body in spandex and an utility belt, and is rather sweet in his earnestness. Harness has the witty banter down perfectly, but while I appreciate humor and the occasional running joke, these two banter all the time, both with each other and within the narrator’s description. Fun, if you want a book that isn’t particularly serious or dark–think Robert Asprin’s Myth series–and without a lot of tension. It definitely made me laugh a time or three.
There are still a few lumps and bumps in the plot, particularly as it pertains to the investigating female detective. She seems obsessed with placing James in handcuffs with little provocation within minutes of meeting him, and the ploy to involve aid the guys’ involvement in the case is pretty thin. Her instincts are right, however, as James isn’t a particularly law-abiding vampire. Here too he displays a teenage-only level of scariness–mostly deception, robbery and vandalism.
There’s a feeble attempt to develop some romantic potential with the detective, but Lilith is a much more interesting and believably created lust interest. The other side character that is interesting is Phil, the fallen angel. The role and resolution he plays in the plot is very satisfying.
The structure of the book is unusual, with some of the longest exposition-type character background being given in the end as everyone prepares for battle. That was a new take for me in storytelling, which I appreciated, but I’m not sure that it worked particularly well. It was kind of pace-destructive to be giving background on turning into a vampire before heading into conflict.
Overall, I’ll put the next book in my TBR list, but will likely look for it at the library.