The Sweet Scent of Blood by Suzanne McLeod
(Spellcrackers.com Book 1)
Published by Gollancz, September 2008
Review by Mark Yon / Hobbit
OK: another urban fantasy vampire novel.
It can be difficult to sound positive about books of this nature when there are (seemingly) so many at the moment. However, there are some in the mass that may be worthy of your attention. And this one, in my opinion, (if you forgive the bad pun) is a cracker!
Genevieve (Genny) Taylor is a Sidhe fae who works for Spellcrackers.com – ‘Making Magic Safe!’ – in contemporary London (albeit a contemporary London where vampires have legal status.) Her occupation of spellcracker, ie: someone who looks for magic and removes it before it becomes a problem, is seemingly a happy one. When a vampire (Mr October, named after his appearance in a bestselling calendar) is accused of murdering his girlfriend, Ginny is asked by her boss, Stella, and the father of Mr October, to solve the mystery of who killed Melissa. The story becomes increasingly complicated as Ginny’s investigation draws in vampire cliques and factions (despite her distaste for such creatures), granite troll coppers and distinctly odd Faerie folk.
As the first in a proposed series, part of the reason for this novel is to introduce characters that will no doubt appear in later books or at least create a setting. The setting is quite good, with some nice sly jibes at contemporary cultural issues – office politics, the world of fashion and celebrity. The characterisation is wide and varied, both in range and execution, clearly in order to construct the world-setting needed for later books in this series. Genny is a character who definitely grows on you as the plot progresses and her world unfolds. She is agreeably sexy, not as overt as Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake’s more recent efforts, though clearly adult.
There’s some nicely original touches – vampire orgies are called ‘fang-gangs’, there’s a nice parallel between vampirism and HIV/AIDS type illnesses (here the vampire illness is called 3V – Vampire Venom and Virus Infection, which extends human life through its transmission, yet makes them a vampire’s blood-slave), servant-like brownies (not the Girl-Scout kind), Beater goblins who monitor vampire-human interaction (and who ensure their cooperation with silver-foil covered baseball bats) not to mention a range of disreputable vampires in a reasonably refined society.
There are lots of glimpses at backstory, which at times make things a little too complicated for the tale and characters used then pretty much abandoned. In the middle of the book things did slow down a little whilst perversely the characters seemed to spend a long while running about.
Often debut novels show lapses in plot, characterisation and logic, where the writer’s enthusiasm is overshadowed by their limitations. To be fair, in small places this could be said here, though on the whole I found this debut novel was surprisingly assured and pleasingly engaging. However, the plot’s revelations become a little bit too much at the end and, as the mystery is resolved, there was a feeling that there were too many plot devices being kept in motion for a wholly successful denouement.
Good fun on the whole though and nice to read a British style ‘Dresden’ or perhaps a Rachel Caine. If you like those books and want a similar-yet-different perspective, this might be one for you.
Mark Yon / Hobbit, September 2008
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