Tate Hallaway,
Tall, Dark & Dead
(Berkley, 2006)

Garnet Lacey is a good witch who throws off her anti-witch adversaries by posing as a new-agey goth witch in a shop selling pagan books and sundries. She hosts the goddess Lilith in her womb after calling down the dark powers a while back to defeat the team of witch killers who slaughtered her coven. Single, she has a thing for vampires, who are apparently quite rare although they have a large following among goth circles in Madison, Wisconsin -- a veritable hotbed of occult activity, it turns out. She's got her sexy vampire ex, Parrish, who is a dependable rock when it comes to hiding bodies and has recently come drifting back into her life. And she's got blood-sucking Sebastian, a daywalker who recently visited her shop in search of a vital ingredient for his life-sustaining magicks.

And Garnet is madly, passionately, devotedly in love with whichever vampire happens to be with her at the time. She trusts the one she's with, mistrusts the one she's not and has sex with whomever's closest.

Tall, Dark & Dead has a few problems, and Garnet's fickle heart is least among them. One is the overall presentation of witchcraft. Garnet pretends to be a new-agey witch poseur to throw pursuers off her track, and yet the actual performance of her craft is drawn from those very same neopagan sources.

The story obviously needs a villain, and author Tate Hallaway (a.k.a. Lyda Morehouse) demonizes the Catholic Church to provide one. Perhaps it's just me, but when her protagonist is a member of a religion that prioritizes religious tolerance, it seems unwise to slam another faith so blatantly. In this case, the church employs psychics to hunt and murder witches, and is considering creating an army of Catholic vampires to strengthen the hunt.

Problems aside, I enjoyed Tall, Dark & Dead much more than I expected. Even the problems mentioned above were amusing in a good-natured but exasperating kind of way.

The first half of the book is a little dry, as Garnet works through her relationship conundrums, sorts through the necessary background material and introduces us to the supporting cast, but once the action kicks in -- with an arrow pinning one of Garnet's vampire beaus to her apartment wall -- it goes full force. Hallaway is a graceful writer who knows her way around a sentence, and she's building a strong supporting frame for Garnet Lacey's world. I hope the coming sequel, Dead Sexy, works out the kinks and focuses on Hallaway's strong points.

by Tom Knapp
31 March 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.