Karen E. Taylor,
Blood Secrets
(Zebra, 1993)

Blood Secrets is another in the long line of vampire novels flooding the market these days and, like many of them, it's the beginning of an ongoing series. Karen E. Taylor hasn't produced the worst of the lot, by far, but Blood Secrets doesn't make it onto the top list, either.

The book begins slowly, spending most of its pages introducing readers to Deidre Griffin, a New York City fashion designer and vampire. We get to watch her at work, puttering around at home, seducing men for feeding purposes and the like, but little happens to make this book either action- or horror-oriented. The book is, in many ways, driven more by character development than plot.

Then one of Deidre's snacks dies shortly after her meeting with him -- unlike most vampires you'll read about, she refuses to kill her cattle -- but the ensuing police investigation still fails to add much excitement to the story. And her budding romance with the investigating detective is just too predictable.

Even the tale of Deidre's transformation, just over 150 years before, lacks excitement -- the attack itself and the deaths of her husband and unborn baby are over too quickly for much impact. Much of the flashback deals with Deidre's wasting illness as she slowly comes to terms with her new condition.

Back to the present ... as more drained corpses turn up in her wake, Deidre is intrigued by the notion that another person like her exists in the city. Since her own change, she has never encountered another vampire. She never seems overly upset by the deaths which surround her, although she's understandably annoyed at the attention they bring her.

The one death which does upset her -- and was probably intended to upset readers, since Taylor took great pains to make the character rather likeable -- didn't actually phase me much because the death was telegraphed pretty much from that character's introduction.

Predictability is the biggest problem with Blood Secrets. That, and the fact that action and horror are never really a big part of the book. The two villains who pop up in its pages are fairly two-dimensional. One, the human bad guy, is predictably obsessed with Deidre's secret and wants to become a vampire himself. Fat chance. The other, the older vampire we all know is going to turn up sooner or later, makes too sudden a transition from human-seeming friend and confidante to raging megalomaniac. And both plot threads are resolved a little too quickly and neatly, I suppose so Taylor could get back to writing more about the ins and outs of the fashion business.

Taylor should be congratulated for not giving the book the predictable ending in one avenue (I'll be courteous enough to inquisitive readers to say no more about it, since it's one of the few surprises in the book) but the teaser for this book's sequel, Bitter Blood forewarns us that Taylor won't be sticking to her guns on that decision. Which is too bad, really -- that character choice was the one thing which might have made me seek Bitter Blood out despite the first book's failings but, knowing where it's headed, I think I'll look elsewhere on the shelf for my next foray into modern vampire lore.

book review by
Tom Knapp


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