Reviewed by Morgan Elektra
Written by David Wellington
Published by Three Rivers Press
It’s no secret that my esteemed colleague Mr. Butane isn’t a fan of the vampire subgenre. I’m not quite as anti-fang as he is, but I will admit to a certain ennui with the whole blood drinker’s ball. It’s become so depressingly predictable in recent years that it all feels boring. I still look for new stuff in the hopes that someone will do something interesting. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Apparently, the big wigs over at Three Rivers Press decided they should throw us a bone in the form of author David Wellington’s new book, 13 Bullets. The description itself is somewhat intriguing; in Wellington’s world everyone knows about vampires. The FBI brings them down, or did, until the late 80’s when they killed all but the last one – whom they of course kept to study while telling the world vampires were extinct. Silly government; we know how that always turns out, don’t we?
Which brings us to current day when a Pennsylvania State Trooper named Laura Caxton calls the FBI for help as a routine traffic stop goes horribly wrong. She gets help in the form of grizzled Special Agent Arkeley, the only living person to have killed a vampire. Arkeley was the agent responsible for killing Piter Lares in the final showdown that resulted in the capture of the last vampire, Justinia Malvern. Now Malvern, while still under observation in a top secret facility in Arabella Furnace, is hellbent on restarting the race. It’s up to Claxton and Arkeley to figure out the how, who and where and stop it before more people die.
What proceeds is a smart, witty, brutal and gory roller coaster ride that is part police procedural and part fever nightmare. Wellington’s characters are engaging and accessible and incredibly real. While at first Arkeley comes off as the typical hard-bitten detective, Wellington gives him just enough fleshing out to make him more human than cliché. The great thing about these characters is, despite being in often fantastical situations, their behavior is very realistic. No one’s perfect and even the vampires have normal weaknesses. In all that rationality, it might surprise you to find the supernatural meshes so well. But it does.
While Wellington doesn’t ditch all of the vampire mythos, he does give it a subtle makeover. You won’t find a single lace cravat or morose, dreamy vampire in velvet, skulking around a silk festooned parlor. These bloodsuckers are primal and vicious and have mouths full of sharp teeth. Wellington uses some genre conventions and adds his own to the mix as well. His writing is tight, fast paced and packs a hell of a punch. I enjoyed 13 Bullets much more than I was expecting to, and I don’t mind saying it.
Be warned, though; not everything is wrapped up into a neat little package. In fact, the way it ends is wide open for a sequel, although it doesn’t necessarily have to continue. I, for one, hope this is just the beginning of a series. I’d love to read further adventures with some of these characters, and I’d be willing to bet others would too. Even if you’re not a really big fan of vampires, this story will entertain you.
4 out of 5
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