This book was another amazing find from The Complete Idiot’s Ultimate Reading List. The story, by an author best known for her vivid fantasy novels, was a fascinating marriage of vampire horror and detective fiction, set in Victorian-era London.

Oxford don and sometimes-covert agent James Asher is shocked when he returns to his townhouse one night to find Spanish Inquisition-era hidalgo vampire Don Simon Ysidro looming in the parlor over Asher’s unconscious wife. But the vampire’s purpose is far deeper than it appears, and Ysidro uses Asher’s fear for his wife to blackmail Asher into investigating who is murdering the vampires of London. Despite the pair’s mutual distrust, Asher and Ysidro must work together if they want to survive their investigation and stop a supernatural killer unlike any they’ve ever encountered, before the killer stops them.

I cannot express to you how refreshing, well-written, and just plain good this story was! It was an interesting cross of early vampire fiction, historical fiction and a good, old-fashioned, twisty detective story. Published in 1988, the novel’s vampires may have been somewhat influenced by Anne Rice’s early work–and of course, early Rice is one of my very favorite things to read! Despite the vampire’s current popularity, in the 1980s almost no one else was writing sympathetic vampire fiction. In Hambly’s tale, the Victorian detective twist–well-researched and presented with very sharp prose—-made the story entirely fresh. The cautious friendship that grows between detective Asher and vampire Ysidro is one of the story’s particular strengths. And the mystery is complex and surprising, with an unexpected solution to the crimes. I understand the author is a historian by training, and the Victorian-era worldbuilding is very well done indeed. There’s apparently one sequel to this story, which I will eagerly look for!

I heartily recommend this book for those who enjoy vampire fiction or Victorian-era mystery/suspense. It’s darkly textured and sometimes violent, but never gratuitously so.


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