Written by Valerie Stivers
Published by Three Rivers Press
Normally, horror fans don’t think of the world of fashion as a setting ripe for the genre. I’m not so sure the fashion industry feels the same, what with a cadre of blood-curdling terminology at its trendy fingertips; the models are drop dead gorgeous, the styles are to die for and the rivalry is cutthroat. This is the world in which Valerie Stiver’s sets her first novel, Blood is the New Black.
Kate McAlliston is an embittered daughter whose mother was a designer and the darling of the fashion industry. Kate blames the glitz and glamour of haute couture for taking her mother away from her family, finally driving her to a dramatic disappearance when Kate was just a teenager. Despite her disdain for all things vogue, she agrees (at the urging of her wealthy aunt) to take an internship at Tasty, a top fashion magazine. Pretty soon, however, not being up on the latest styles is the least of Kate’s worries.
Aside from whether or not the hot photographer is really interested or is just a flirt, she’s up to her eyeballs in contest entries for the new Tasty girl; oh and there’s a nasty murderer on the loose in the fashion world, and rumors that the upper staff of Tasty are all vampires. After all, they sleep all day, party all night and they all look like flawless skinned ingénues, no matter how old they are.
Don’t worry; I’m not giving anything away. Stivers makes it pretty clear from her prologue that we’re dealing with the undead. Of course, at first Kate doesn’t know whether or not to believe that her co-workers are bloodsuckers, and who can blame her? She can’t help but poke around a little bit and as she does, it becomes clear that someone in the office is responsible for the bodies that keep turning up everywhere. But which vamp is it? Sycophantic Annabel? Icy Alexa? Maybe it’s ageless boss lady Lillian… or even worse, handsome heartthrob James?
While Blood is the New Black doesn’t really play with the conventions of vampire lore to a great extent, it does offer a few fresh, setting-appropriate twists that give the story a modern facelift without losing those traditional, comforting customs. Kate and her fellow fashion world denizens are well written characters. Kate in particular is very easily relatable, especially to readers who aren’t up on the latest designers and styles. She provides an ironic, outsiders look on the crazy world of style. In fact, whether you’re a card-carrying fashionista, buy off the rack, or fall somewhere in between the two, there’s someone here for you to relate to.
While the story isn’t incredibly complex, Stivers does manage to deftly handle the vivid descriptions, relationships and red herrings to keep you guessing until almost the end. Blood is the New Black may not be for everyone. It’s got a decidedly chick lit feel to it, sort of Dracula meets “Sex in the City”. But Stivers does a great job of crafting an amusing, modern vampire story with three-dimensional characters. Her writing is witty and fresh with a decided dark streak and a little dash of sexy. Stivers freshman offering won’t change the genre, but if you’re looking for a relaxing, entertaining time-waster – Blood is the New Black is bloody good fun.
3½ out of 5
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