Publication Date: January 25, 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
VAMPIRE FOR HIRE
Raylene Pendle (AKA Cheshire Red), a vampire and world-renowned thief, doesn’t usually hang with her own kind. She’s too busy stealing priceless art and rare jewels. But when the infuriatingly charming Ian Stott asks for help, Raylene finds him impossible to resist—even though Ian doesn’t want precious artifacts. He wants her to retrieve missing government files—documents that deal with the secret biological experiments that left Ian blind. What Raylene doesn’t bargain for is a case that takes her from the wilds of Minneapolis to the mean streets of Atlanta. And with a psychotic, power-hungry scientist on her trail, a kick-ass drag queen on her side, and Men in Black popping up at the most inconvenient moments, the case proves to be one hell of a ride.
There’s this thing about pre-releases and me. I’m a big anticipator. I scour the advance covers and blurbs looking for clues about the stories and characters, trying to figure out either which way my continuing story is going to go or whether or not a new story is going to be worth the money or end up in the donate pile. Bloodshot had been on my preorder list since I’d first heard of it, mostly on the strength of the gorgeous cover and the premise of a vampire flapper-international jewel thief. It looked wonderfully noir-ish. Then I read it and it wasn’t, but it worked and it was damn funny.
Raylene has Buffy the Vampire Slayers’s sense of snark (no irony there), Sam Spade’s swagger and a little of Kinsey Milhone’s it-goes-with-everything wardrobe. A little too much of the beginning of the book is spent wandering around aimlessly with Raylene while she tells us about herself, but the delivery was so delightfully sly I didn’t mind that much. I also loved Priest’s vampire setup: a little faster and stronger, better hearing and sense of smell, can regenerate and heal, don’t sleep underground and only need blood every couple of weeks. On the other hand, they don’t fly or shapeshift, can’t do any mumbo-jumbo sex thing with their voice or eyes, they can be injured and need blood and still have that whole crispy burning issue with the sun. It gives Raylene a wonderful balance of kick-ass superwoman and vulnerable, normal international jewel thief (ha!). It’s fortunate that she’s such a compelling character because she carries nearly all of the book.
The plot started out decently complex. Paranoia about secret government experiments always works, as proven by the success of The X-Files franchise, and there’s the additional bit of horror here for Raylene that they’ve found a way to permanently damage a vampire, something that shouldn’t be possible. The action is cinematic: when she breaks into one of the government compounds and is discovered by guards, the detail is good enough that I could imagine it on a big screen.
If there were weak points, it would have to be when Priest had trouble keeping the balance between Raylene’s snarky swagger, the odd turns of the investigation and some utter silliness that seemed to be there for “look at me, I’m edgy!” more than anything else. While I thought it was funny, I couldn’t see the Raylene from the beginning of the book surreptitiously groping the crotch of a drag queen and wondering how he managed to tuck it all, and all this while they’re trying to escape a veritable platoon of crazy militants. Stott himself is a bit of a non-entity for most of the book; he’s aloof because of his blindness and unwillingness to trust Raylene until she hands over what he needs and combined with his limited page time, there just isn’t much of him to think about.
My Summary: Raylene has all three S’s: savvy, swagger and snark. Untangling the source of the militant group behind Project Bloodshot, staying one step ahead of the dark-suited bad guys on her trail and trying to find the files Ian needs before his time runs out provides all of the ingredients for a thrilling plot. Despite the subject matter though, this isn’t your typical urban fantasy: heavy on the humor with a little twist of romance at the end, this is a series worth starting.
My rating: A-