I wish I had found this series when it was written, way back in 1991. One of the earliest entrants in the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre, it preceded even Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. In the 2005 combined book edition, Huff remarks that when she was working in a sci-fi bookstore, she noticed that “vampire readers are very loyal,” and hoping to acquire a mortgage, she shopped the idea for this book when submitting another one to DAW. At some point, I think after reading Huff’s Enchantment Emporium, I was motivated to look up the rest of her catalog and found this series. Now, however, I’ve been mulling over what books to cull and am at the point where (re)reading is required. I pulled this out as a possible candidate. It’s interesting to read this in 2017, decades after the growth of urban fantasy.
Vicki Nelson has recently retired from the Toronto Police Department due to a debilitating eye condition. She’s about to get on the subway when she hears a scream. Racing to the scene, she saw a shadowy, dark figure disappearing. Homicide detective Mike Celluci is one of the first on the scene and he wastes no time at the opportunity to yell at her for leaving the force. Meanwhile, Henry FitzRoy is struggling with his latest bodice-ripper. When he learns of the series of deaths, he starts wondering if a vampire could be the culprit. It sounds crazy, but he should know, as he’s been one for over four hundred years.
Narration primarily flips between Vicki and Henry, with short insights into the murder victims, the killer, and Mike Celluci in a third-person omniscient view. It builds slowly, perhaps too slowly compared to the modern UF, but people who enjoy a richer story should enjoy the pacing. Unfortunately, land-line telephones play a major role in plotting, a conceptual barrier that may be hard for the smartphone generation to grasp. There’s a mild twist that the Goodreads blurb gives away, but the remainder of the story is a straightforward ‘figure out who is doing the killing and stop it.’
“At the top of the short flight of concrete stairs, she paused, her blood pounding unnaturally loudly in her ears. She had always considered herself immune to foolish superstitions, race memories, and night terrors, but faced with the tunnel, stretching dark and seemingly endless like the lair of some great worm, she was suddenly incapable of taking the final step off the platform. The hair on the back of her neck rose as she remembered how, on the night that Ian Reddick had died, she’d been certain that something deadly lingered in the tunnel.”
Characterization is enjoyable, fuller than is normally done in the genre, but still following general tropes of a stubbornly independent woman, a fiery, upstanding lawman, and a dreamy, debonair vampire. Its funny to me, thinking about the timeframe–if this is one of the early UF books, then my guess is that some of these stereotypes come from romance books. It turns out Henry is the bastard child of King Henry the VIII, so his points of view allow Huff to go back in time and dabble in historical romantic fiction.
All that said, I’m not sure this deserves space in my personal library, mostly because I’ve largely moved on from the genre and am looking only for books that stand the test of (my) time. However, it’s also not an easily found book. Any takers?