Tanya Huff,
Blood Price
(DAW, 1991)

Blood Price is the first of Tanya Huff's five novels about Vicki Nelson, the private investigator who hooks up with a vampire to solve supernatural mysteries.

Vicki is a former Toronto homicide detective who left the force when her eyesight began to deteriorate due to retinitis pigmentosa. She is still able to use her well-honed police skills as a private investigator, but her poor vision limits the kind of cases she can take on.

Then she stumbles across the first victim of an unusually brutal murder. A near-witness to the crime, she finds herself drawn into the investigation and back into contact with her former co-workers, most notably detective Michael Celluci, with whom her history is a little more than work-related.

More victims follow, and the condition of the bodies causes a sensationalist stir as rumors of vampires spread. Vicki refuses to give credence to the rumors -- until she meets a vampire.

Not the vampire -- a vampire, Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate son of Henry VIII, currently supporting himself by writing "bodice ripper" romance novels. He too, has been seeking the killer because he knows that it's not a vampire -- it's worse.

The plot is definitely a page turner from the opening pages to the climactic scene. Multiple points of view heighten the tension as the various threads of the story come together, and although the book is nearly 10 years old, its contemporary references hold up well. Vicki is a strong and appealing character, stubborn and practical but willing to shift her perspective if that's what is required. She has a good sense of humor, and she's realistic and convincing in her personality. Henry is a good foil for her, sharing her practicality and strength of mind while also providing contrast. The romance writing is an especially nice touch and reflects the quirky humor evident in her writing.

Huff's series is inevitably compared to Laurell K. Hamilton's books about vampire hunter Anita Blake, which debuted in 1993. The two series are not identical, of course, and both are good, but I admit a preference for Vicki over Anita. One element of Hamilton's series is the somber mood in the plots; these books take place in an alternate America where vampires, werewolves and zombies are commonplace, and Anita constantly grapples with moral dilemmas. The Huff books, set in contemporary Canada, are bit lighter, and Huff demonstrates a capacity for not taking herself too seriously while maintaining respect for the reader.

Definitely give Blood Price a try if you're looking for a vampire story with a little bite in it.

review by
Donna Scanlon


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