Tanya Huff: Blood Series

Blood Series* (Blood Price, Blood Trail, Blood Lines)
by Tanya Huff
(urban fantasy)

*I have, as yet, only read the first three books in this series, so those are the books I am reviewing here. When I read the rest, I will add their reviews separately.

Blood Price is the first in a series of books about Vicky “Victory” Nelson, a Toronto Private Investigator who was formerly a city cop. She is accidentally the first on the scene of a gruesome homicide on a subway station, the first in a string of murders that have the city screaming “vampire”. Vicky is not sure about the vampire angle, but when she gets hired to investigate the murder she’s quite willing to track down the clues in this odd case. There are many things that don’t add up… until she meets the real vampire…

Vicky Nelson is a very real character, with real likes, dislikes, and weaknesses. The problem I have with her is she may be a bit too real. Her biggest weakness is her eyesight, which is bad enough to be the reason she left the police force. However, in my mind, by the time I’d read a couple of these books, she mentions it too many times for me to stay sympathetic. Even so, she is an enjoyable character, and the other characters around her keep a realistic attitude toward her failing eyesight – sometimes sympathetic, sometimes trying to kick her out of her self-pity.

The plot itself seems fairly well thought out, and though there were sections I had foreseen I didn’t guess the complete ending. There are enough twists to leave you – and the main characters – second-guessing the things you think you know. My complaint about this book is my complaint about the whole series: it’s pretty short. The books are action-packed, however, and didn’t leave me feeling cheated. I just didn’t want them to end.

Another thing that isn’t really a complaint but that takes some getting used to is the way flashbacks are treated. They are separated from the ‘current’ text in the same way that new scenes (in the current timeline) are, so sometimes it’s hard at first to determine if some scenes are flashbacks or not. The scenes themselves are nicely written, however, I just wish there was a little more distinction. I also love finding out about Henry’s past: it makes him seem a very human vampire…

Blood Trail makes a very good second book, continuing in the vein of Blood Price without retelling too many of the details of the first book. In this book, Vicky learns about the existence of werewolves in London, Ontario, when her new friend Henry asks her to help discover who is killing them. Even though the wers blend in well with human society, someone has discovered their secret and wants to see the whole pack dead – and yet is killing them in fur-form, so the family can’t take their problem to the local police.

This book, to me, is a better one than the first. It has a bit more mystery to the plot; even though there are still some things about the villain that we are told, the connections develop in a fashion I found more enjoyable. Also, I love Huff’s take on werewolves: they aren’t human, and never were. They are a completely different race, and no amount of biting will make a human into a were. Their pack dynamics also seem to be more realistic than some variations.

Again, my complaint with this book is its length. I’m not sure if it would be better longer, or if the only things that could be added would be obvious filler. Mike Cellucci could perhaps have more screen time, even though he already shows up a lot. Perhaps there should be more about Henry, and his reactions with the pack leader. I hesitate to ask for more flashback to his past, but it might have been a nice addition to see how he achieved the staus of ‘accepted dominant outsider’ within the pack.

Blood Lines is my favorite of the first three Victory Nelson books. It begins with the discovery of a mummy from Ancient Egypt: a mummy that’s not actually dead. Unlike the first two books where Vicky and Henry are the driving force behind the investigation, this mystery is presented as an obsession of Cellucci’s. He is on his way home one night when he sees an incident at the museum. The cops on the scene inform him that a janitor died of heart failure, due to seeing the museum’s new mummy. Not a homicide, therefore nothing for Cellicci to investigate. He doesn’t think much of it, until another body turns up at the museum: also dead of a heart attack, and found in the same room as an empty sarcophagus… in which there is no mummy. And now suddenly everyone claims that there never was a mummy…

I really love the interaction between the characters in this book. Unlike the earlier two, this one has the three of them working in various degrees of togetherness right from the start. Some of the thoughts that Cellucci keeps to himself regarding Henry are just classic: he can’t bring himself to think of the other man as a vampire, so any time the v-word would be said in Mike’s mind, Huff replaces it with “…romance writer.” Very amusing.

And on the other hand, even though Blood Lines has some very funny moments, it also delves deeper into the minds and fears of the characters. All three evolve a bit from start to finish, and yet the changes are subtle enough that I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what changed. One thing that I did notice was that Vicky doesn’t seem quite as stupid about her eyes in this one as she did in the previous two. Maybe she’s finally healing and learning to cope.

Though Blood Lines is approximately the same length as the prior two, I didn’t notice the shortness this time. Perhaps the length felt right for the story. Perhaps the pacing kept me enthralled and so I didn’t notice the length. Perhaps I was expecting the length I got. Whatever the reason, while I intellectually wish the book was longer, emotionally I didn’t mind.

As a series, the violence is what would make me hesitate to recommend the book. It’s not described in detail, but there are enough hints that if you have an active imagination your mind will supply what Huff does not. However, the violence is not gory, nor is it the focus of the books: the focus is definitely the mystery aspect. (Hence the name “Victory Nelson Investigations”.) The sex is even less present. It’s implied that the characters have it; in some cases you’re point-blank told that one character takes another to bed. But it isn’t described, nor is it missed. It is even less of a part of the book’s focus than the violence is.

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~ by Nicole on August 17, 2007.

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