This novel is the first in the successful series by Tanya Huff featuring her female PI, Vicki Nelson, one of the earlier urban fantasy/horror offerings that helped to popularise the hordes of vampires and demons stalking our streets.
It began with blood and death. And Vicki Nelson, PI was at the scene. The victim had been brutally, inhumanly opened up. Messy work. She’d had to cover the corpse with her coat. It had sort of made her feel involved.
Now Vicki is caught up in the deadly pursuit of a mass murderer with an inhuman appetite for mayhem and destruction. And her advisor on the case is doing nothing to dampen her growing sense of foreboding. But then, with a being of unspeakable evil stalking the city, only Vicki Nelson would ally herself with Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate child of Henry VIII and five hundred years a vampire.
When the novel opens, Vicki is struggling to come to terms with an incurable eye condition that is affecting her vision, bringing her career as a successful homicide detective to an end. Henry Fitzroy finds his daily routine is becoming lonely and boring in equal measure, tempting him to start taking silly risks. Until the headlines in the local Toronto papers start screaming about vampire attacks and he realises that if he doesn’t start using his superhuman speed and strength to hunt this creature, this unwelcome attention may well grow.
Huff deftly pulls the reader into this solidly constructed vamp tale. Vicki Nelson makes a satisfying protagonist with plenty of edges and a bumpy relationship with her former colleague and sometime lover, Mike Celluci. I also found Fitzroy a convincing vampire who has managed to carve out a niche for himself, yet still yearns for a closer relationship. Huff quickly builds a sense of tension as we gradually learn exactly what the nature of the evil is as the body count goes on growing.
I enjoyed the apparent contradiction between the apparent harmlessness of the instigator of all the mayhem and the damage he managed to inflict. Evil doesn’t always look coolly menacing, or revoltingly grotesque – it can just as easily be gawky and slightly pathetic.
The series was turned into the short-lived TV series, Blood Ties. However, don’t let memories of that lacklustre effort hinder you from seeking out the books – as is often the case, the screen version was a limp shadow of Huff’s characters and world. If you haven’t yet encountered this series and enjoy a good supernatural murder mystery, you’re in for a treat.