Blood Bath & Beyond - Michelle Rowen
Sarah Dearly has only been a vampire for seven months. In that time, she’s adjusted to her new life, faced a few dangers, and become engaged to master vampire Thierry. They’re planning the wedding when Thierry breaks the news. He’s been offered a job he pretty much can’t refuse: he’s going to be a consultant for the Ring. The Ring is a sort of elder council of vampires. They police the vampire population of the world, making sure no one does anything to get them noticed or hunted by the general public. The job will take him all over the world and will last fifty years. Sarah decides to go with him instead of sitting at home, waiting for him to appear for a day or two.
The first posting is in Las Vegas. It seems that a contestant in a toddler beauty pageant is actually a vampire. Her success is gaining her too much attention. There are professional vampire hunters out there who might not worry about collateral damage when going for the vamp. When Sarah and Thierry arrive at their hotel, they’re greeted with the sight of a body being wheeled out on a stretcher. Apparently, there have been six murders in as many days. The Ring has kept the press quiet, but insiders know that there’s a vampire serial killer running around town. And just to add to the fun, Thierry will be meeting Bernard, another master vampire who was once one of his best friends. The two argue in public just before Bernard is dispatched by a hunter. Of course, all clues point to Thierry as the killer.
First, I have to applaud the author’s decision to put the meet-cute-fall-in-love part of this relationship in the past. This is the first installment in a series, and I’m quite glad not to have to go through the trauma/romance period with these characters. They’re together, they’re engaged, and we can move on from that point. Of course a murder investigation is going to be tough on any relationship, especially when the Ring’s enforcer (a guy who functions as judge, jury, and executioner) arrives on the scene. Instead of fleeing to a safe location, Sarah decides to try and figure out who might have wanted Bernard dead, even though she has no idea where to start.
Sarah is accompanied for part of her investigation by Victoria, the adorable blonde six-year-old beauty pageant contestant – who happens to be a hundred-year-old vampire. That strikes me as hilarious and possible. She’s an interesting character who swings between a smoking, drinking, know-it-all and a little girl who loves ball pits and pink ruffles. I’m not sure I buy both sides, but that’s what makes her a fascinating and unpredictable. There are plenty of other vampires around Vegas, some are good and some are not.
While the book starts out looking like a frothy chick-lit take on the vampire mythos, I was glad to see that it was both deeper and darker than that. Sarah’s tendency to crack wise nicely leavens the very real dangers and fear she faces. If Thierry is found guilty (and it looks pretty bad for him) he’ll be executed. That honestly scares Sarah, as well it should. The mysteries presented here intertwine and some reach far back into the past. To be honest, Sarah kind of stumbles on the solution to one mystery, but the methods used to find the truth about Bernard are inventive and macabre. The newest installment is out this month, so watch this space.
ISBN# 978-0-451-23764-4 (paperback)