Tag Archives: #Vampires

Torr, Edwin; Blood, Bone and Coffin (Dead Means Dead 0); Obulus Books, 2017

The relative merits of my weapon of choice all became a little academic when my phone began to play the Mexican Hat Dance. I rummaged in my pocket, wishing I was better at technology so that I could change the ringtone or at least mute the damn thing. It’s hardly appropriate for a Specialist Funeral Director to have such a chirpy tune ringing out across a graveyard. I pulled the phone out and stabbed randomly at the buttons, trying to silence the thing. It was then I realized that in doing so, I had inadvertently stood up, revealing myself to the dead head.

“Hello?” Detective Inspector savage’s voice sounded incredibly loud. Somehow, I’d managed to put him on speakerphone. “Are you there, Coffin?”

The dead guy spun round. He looked fast for someone who had died a few weeks ago and just finished the impossible journey from six feet under the soil to the surface. He also looked like every one of the days of those weeks had taken its toll on him. His face was bloated and grey, the skin splitting around his forehead to reveal white bone and a lining of something creamy. He gave a low growl from his black lips which gave me a lovely view of his yellowed, uneven teeth.

“Hi, Savage, can I ring you back? It’s not a good time right now.”

Savage was one of those people who never took the hint. “It won’t take a minute, Coffin. We’ve had a report of an open grave in a place called Hampton Green…”

“I’m dealing with a lich, right now, Savage, I can’t really…” I didn’t finish the sentence. The dead guy launched himself forward and rammed his shoulder into my gut, grabbing me round the waist and forcing me backwards onto the ground. (ch. 1)

Blood, Bone and Coffin is a prequel to Demons. It is a novella about the Specialist Funeral Director whose job it is to lay the undead to rest. Sometimes the police give him work to do. Usually, they do not call him at such an inconvenient time as the one in the quote. Or perhaps Coffin learns how to silence his cell-phone.

What begins with the request to lay a zombie to rest, ends up being a search for the killer of residents at the Twilight Grove Nursing Home in Hampton Green, England.

BB&C is a fun little paranormal whodunit with odd people all over the place. Recommended.

 

Charish, Kristi; Owl and the Japanese Circus (2015)

The world of Owl and the Japanese Circus, by Kristi Charish, is dominated by antique thief extraordinaire, Owl, previously known as Alix Hiboux. Alix’s transformation from archaeology grad student to thief is in part a result of one of the laws we get to know in this urban fantasy. The International Archaeological Association (IAA) operates outside the law of the land in certain cases. Not all archaeological discoveries can be shared with the public. Also, the IAA takes care of their people in the know. Unfortunately for Alix, she fell victim to one such person.

“In exchange for saying, “No, I was wrong, none of the data in that report was falsified, the postdoc and supervisor still remain god apparent, I’m a bad grad student,” I had been verbally promised funding for the next four years and a coveted transfer to the lost city dig site in Ephesus, Turkey. Right after I had signed the paperwork that had legally absolved the university and my supervisor of any wrongdoing, all my funding had been terminated and my transfer had disappeared.”

All of a sudden, Alix was persona non grata in academia. Her reputation was ruined, and she needed to make a living. Turning thief was a matter of getting back at her old university and utilizing her outstanding understanding of the authenticity of antiques and antique languages. She chose her clients carefully (she thought), made sure they never met face-to-face, and paid a courier well to deliver the orders. All went well. Owl made loads of money. And then – poof – vampires. Once the lid is off Pandora’s box, there is no putting the monsters back. When we meet her, Owl is on the run from said vampires.

“I turned around slowly and looked up at the tallest Japanese man I’d ever seen, wearing a pair of designer sunglasses. He wore a tailored suit with diamond cuff links – real diamond cuff links – and matching shoes, but that wasn’t what got the kid. A tattoo of a dragon wound its way around his neck and disappearing underneath his shirt. It was striking, and a stark contrast to the expensive outfit. It was also a signature.”

One does not refuse Mr. Ryuu Kurusawa. Owl has done jobs for him before but never met him or his people.  That is about to change.

“Ryuu Kurosawa, a Vegas mogul known for his Japanese Circus-themed casino, looked up from a white couch and smiled that business smile you come to expect from professional sharks. Not the ones that take your money, the ones that eat you while you’re still screaming.”

In return for retrieving the missing contents of a magical egg, Mr. Kurosawa will hold off the vampires. Or else.

Like most humans I have met, Owl is incredibly inconsistent and willfully blind to her own fears. And, as is the case when we are willfully blind, she does not learn from her mistakes. Even though she now knows that there are supernaturals, she never spots them. For one so focused on the details of archaeology, Owl misses the details of people around her. This leaves her with room for growth.  Quite naturally, she also has huge trust issues. Along with those come a tendency to self-sabotage anything that might lead to friendship. Her tools are language and running away. However, there is some hope.

“You made me nervous the last time I was here. I didn’t know what to make of it, and personal conversations make me uncomfortable, so I did something stupid and decided to avoid you.” I ran my hand through my hair. “I’m a hell of a lot better with inconsequential conversations about vampires and RPGs,” I added, hazarding a look at him. He was still watching me and sizing me up from the doorway. Then he walked back to the outdoor bar and took the seat beside me. “All right,” he said. “We can go back to talking about RPGs and my vampire problems?” I said, maybe a little too hopefully. “No. We can have the conversation you didn’t want to have three months ago, and then I’ll decide whether I still want to be friends with you.”

One relationship Owl would never dream of sabotaging is her relationship with her Egyptian Mau cat, Captain. He goes with her everywhere. At first, I thought that would be a problem because of all of her traveling and her line of work. After a look at the various cat carriers out there, traveling was no longer an issue. When it comes to her line of work, Captain is a potential liability. Traveling with a cat in a carrier makes it easier to be spotted once that detail leaks. However, he is also a vampire alarm. Plus she loves him and he gives her balance.

Owl’s best, and oldest, friend is Nadya. The two met while at grad school. About six months before trouble hit Alix, Nadya suspected something nasty was going on and left for Tokyo. She advised Alix to do the same, but as we know, Alix ended up as Owl. Nadya is extremely smart and business savvy. She lives in the Shiyuba (sp?) district of Tokyo, owns a night club called the Space Station Deluxe and is Alix’s go-to-person when there is need of hacking.

Owl and the Japanese Circus was a fun YA urban fantasy with long-term potential. Definitely recommended.


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Available at Amazon

Estep, Jennifer: Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin I) (2010)

Jennifer Estep‘s Ashland, Tennessee, is like many corrupt cities/towns/countries. “Ashland might have a working police force and government, but the city was really run by one woman. Mab Monroe.” Monroe is your typical mobster. She has a respectable front powered by charity, fund-raising and activities appearing to give back to the community. Behind that façade, bribes and intimidation are favorite tools but she does not hesitate to stoop to kidnappings and murder if necessary. If you happen to be a law-abiding police officer, district attorney or judge, you are doomed one way or another.

In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Prince Hamlet says to his mother Queen Gertrude:

“Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed,
Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty—”

Into such a bed of corruption, Estep places Spider (Gin Snow), assassin, main character and story-teller. Gin is known as Gin Blanco, part-time cook and waitress at the Pork Pit. She regularly takes classes at Ashland Community College – the eternal student. Pork Pit is owned by Fletcher (foster-father, ex-assassin and handler/go-between). Gin loves and trusts both Fletcher and Finnegan/Finn (foster-brother and bankier). As Spider’s Bite unfolds, we discover how Gin came to be in Fletcher’s household.

We first meet Spider in Ashland Asylum. She is there to kill one of the therapists. As an introduction, this assignment serves to introduce us to Gin, her profession, the types of inhabitants in Ashland and what kinds of magic exist. Ashland is a place of magic, vampires, giants, dwarves and humans. Gin is human and a stone- and ice-elemental. The other two main forms of magic are fire- and air-magic. Most elementals have the use of one magic. If they have two, one of them is normally a minor one. Ashland’s magic is not without its dangers, addiction being one of them. Insanity another. Fletcher and Finn are humans and without magic. Early on in the story, Gin takes on an assignment that has devastating effects on her relationship with Fletcher and Finn and has the potential of bringing her within reach of Mab.

Her assignment certainly brings her within reach of Detective Donovan Caine. Caine is one of the few honest public service-people in Ashland. Of course, he and Gin are bound to clash and end in the inevitable should/should not have sex situation. Fortunately, Estep chooses to portray Gin as the instigator and Caine as the doubting, shameful one. It would be strange if they had the usual roles in paranormal literature due to Caine being the upright police officer that he is. Happily, this romance bit did not take up too much of the story. Most of their interaction was through their investigation.

Finn, Gin’s foster-brother, is something worse than an assassin (as Gin puts it). He is a bankier and Gin’s go-to person in Spider’s Bite. It would be a safe bet to say that Finn and Gin are best friends. Their friendship is vital to the success of the investigation. When Caine becomes involved he and Finn go through the usual (is it like this all over the world?) who’s-the-manlier-man procedure. Thankfully, again, Estep does not force us to endure yet another threesome (god, I hate those). No mushy stuff and no threesome. What is the world coming to?

I had fun reading Spider’s Bite. There was plenty of action. Some violence and sex. Definitely recommended.


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Spider’s Bite is available at Amazon

Barnett, David: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl (2013)

“Darling Annie!” He took her in his arms and kissed her. Annie wanted to should it from the rooftops. She had a sweetheart, and he was a toff to boot.

Poor little Annie Crook became involved with the wrong man. In Victorian times, whether they be in alternate or our history, the rabble risked much if they caught the attention of the upper class. Yet, sometimes, the rabble manages to surprise. Young Annie is one of the voices David Barnett  introduces us to in Mechanical Girl.

At first, he thought the knocking was a gear slipping, or one of the spring wearing. He sat up in the chair, suddenly alert, and peered around. “Anybody else hear that?”

Arthur frowned. There it went again. He stood and walked to the port side. Probably a piece of driftwood or rubbish hauled over the side from one of the factory farms. He leaned over and looked at the black, oily water.

Lives of trawler-fishers are dangerous one. In the past, more so. Usually, lives are lost because of the ocean’s wiles, but for Arthur Smith the cause of death of was much more sinister. Left behind is 24-year-old Gideon Smith (our main protagonist). To him Sandsend seems like the end of the earth and he wants nothing more than to leave it behind and experience the adventures he reads about in World Marvels & Wonders.

To have his father’s death be the impetus for his investigation  was not how Gideon thought his adventure would begin. Investigate he must, for there is something distinctly off about the disappearance of the crew of the Cold Drake. Anger can be a marvelous tool when we suspect something needs fixing. Anger at our gods, the fickleness of nature, people dying and leaving us behind and even at our own fears are all angers that can prompt action and change. Gideon is an angry man, and rightly so. Life in Victorian times (both alternate world and our) was unfair. It still is. Being wealthy makes life easier to navigate while poverty keeps people in their place. Annie was certainly kept in her place. Now Gideon has to find a way to leave his and investigate and explore.

Which is why he goes seeking Captain Trigger, that wonderful hero of the penny dreadfuls. Such a hero must see that Gideon’s cause is worth pursuing (taking Gideon with him). Getting hold of Captain Trigger proves difficult and Gideon must seek help. Who should turn up but Bram Stoker. Yes, that one. David Barnett throws  conspiracies and magical names at us through the story. We just have to pay attention to where we are going.

Once Bram becomes involved, officials finally pay attention to Gideon’s worry about a smuggler’s cave. Stoker is just higher enough on the layers of society for him to be taken more seriously than Gideon. Let’s face it. That is the way the world works. I am taken more seriously than a homeless person. My husband is taken more seriously than I. Writing about inequality in a manner that is fun to read is something Barnett does well. Intended or unintended.

In the end, Gideon gets to meet Captain Trigger, a meeting that changes both men. Gideon also meets wonderful and strange Maria. As he and Maria get closer to an answer to both of their questions, stranger and stranger creatures turn up. Conspiracy indeed.

I had fun. Lots of fun reading Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. Definitely recommended.


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Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl available at Amazon.com

McCoskey, Scott: Bad Mojo Blues (2014)

Bad Mojo Blues by Scott McCoskeyMerriam-Webster defines mojo as: “a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc.” Bad Mojo is certainly something Marcus suffers from during the three days that we walk with him.

“The cards were screaming at him to hop a plane to anywhere else … Right now they told him to change his fucking direction and fast.”

But Marcus’ father is dying. If not for that, he would have stayed away from his dysfunctional family another ten years. His mom and dad are conservative Christians, his cousin is a blood-bag to a vampire and his sister (who begged him to come home) keeps away from Marcus. He is thought, by his family, to be dirty and evil  because he practices magic.

Marcus’ relatives aren’t the only dysfunctional people we meet. Old friends try to mess with him, and some of their requests are pretty unfriendly. All, in all, the tarot cards seem to have been correct, this time, in their predictions.

Scott McCoskey has written about a mess of a person and done it in a manner that I enjoyed. This is a self-published book and there were flaws, but McCoskey’s style makes up for that. Bad Mojo Blues is a fun crime-filled novella set in an unnamed small town in South-West New Mexico.

Recommended.


Bad Mojo Blues available at amazon.com

Teasdale, Niall: Thaumatology 101 (2011)

thaumatology-101-Niall Teasdale

Thaumatology 101 is a mystery. Ceridwyn (Ceri) Brent has been hired as a research assistant to Dr. Tennant at the Metropolitan University in London at the High-energy Thaumatology Building. Thaumatology is the magic of Teasdale’s world. Dr. Tennant has been working for a couple of years on finding a solution for the containment of T-Null. It turns out her other assistant, Shane Walters, has hampered her work. After an accident occurs that almost kills Ceri, Ceri and Lily begin searching for an answer to why Shane is out to stop Ceri.

I like the way Teasdale introduces us to the world (and the house) both Ceri and Lily are part of. Thaumatology 101 is very much about the friendship between Lily and Ceri. Ceri experiences major changes in her life during the story and Lily is there to both support and hamper her. Thaumatology 101 celebrates sexuality without being preachy or crude. I found that refreshing. Not being a romance was also great. Violence in the story was toned down. Because of the toned down violence and joyful sexuality, I would call this an older Young Adult urban fantasy tale.  The story is somewhere between a novella and a novel in length (137 pgs).

Recommended.


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Thaumatology 101 available at Smashwords, Amazon.com, Amazon.uk

Tuttle, Frank: The Mister Trophy (The Markhat Files) (2008)

The Mister Tropy - Frank Tuttle

Humans are herd animals with a strong need to belong to some kind of group. Markhat is seemingly a loner, but as The Mister Trophy develops, I got more a sense of loneliness. The ending cinched my suspicion.

Markhat is a detective. He finds what is lost and returns whatever is lost to the person looking for it. The race of his clients is of no matter, as long as their currency is good. When The Misters come a-knocking Markhat is reminded of their recent war and worries about his survivability. But these trolls are honorable creatures, and any deal made is a deal that must be upheld. Whether Markhat inhabits the same kind of honor is a question Markhat finds himself needing an answer to.

The opposition this time is the half-dead. Half-deads are a sort of vampire. These post-humans are of the decaying sort in the sense that there is an odor of the grave about them. They aren’t healthy looking, but they aren’t zombie-like either. As post-humans they have strength and agility unlike regular humans. Half-deads aren’t people you want to mess with. But that is exactly what Markhat needs to do in order to fulfill his deal with the Misters.

Fortunately, being human doesn’t mean that he is without resources. From the story it does not seem that Markhat has any super-natural/para-normal powers, but he does have access to them. His latest source surprises and frightens him. Some of his preconceived ideas are torn down and Markhat reevaluates his perception of reality.

The Mister Trophy was short, action-packed and fun to read. Recommended.


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The Mister Trophy can be found at Samhain Publishing