Barbara Hambly, 1988
Premise: James Asher is a professor. He knows a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about linguistics and anthropology. He is also a retired player of the Great Game. This is why, when Simon Ysidro demands his help, Asher’s first response is to notice his unique accent. His second is notice that Ysidro isn’t breathing. Ysidro needs Asher to help him find out who is killing the vampires of London. Asher just needs to not get killed.
I feel like it would be a little unusual today to see a novel that deals so well with the potential ambiguity of vampires. Even if they once were human, and retain some human qualities, that just makes them, at best, as untrustworthy as humans. Even when he becomes engrossed in the problem for its own sake, Asher never forgets that Ysidro might turn on him, or stops thinking about options should he need to turn on them.
These are dangerous predators. Asher is blackmailed into helping Ysidro try to discover the killer, even though most of the vampires would just as soon ignore the problem and kill Asher.
This is a really fun novel. It took me a while to get over how many annoying times James’ wife Lydia is described as a waifish beauty… but it’s in tone for the style of the time the book is set in. Plus she’s actually a medical researcher, and pretty great. It’s set in the early 20th century, shortly after the publication of Dracula, naturally. The characters are intriguing and the plot twists mostly satisfying. One of the biggest reveals was such a surprise to me, though, I had a little trouble following. Even so, the ending was great.
A solid thriller/mystery with some appropriately scary monsters.
4 Stars - A Very Good Book