99 Coffins (Book)
Reviewed by Morgan Elektra
Written by David Wellington
Published by Three River Press
Last time out, author David Wellington introduced readers to grizzled FBI Special Agent Jameson Arkeley, by-the-book and steadfast Trooper Laura Caxton, and a world where the existence of vampires isn’t fairytale, but fact. In 13 Bullets (review), the last remaining vampire Justinia Malvern manages to raise a small group of disciples in an attempt to restore her power, and the handful of toothy bastards cut a bloody swath through Pennsylvania. The story’s climax left Caxton mentally battered and Arkeley badly wounded, but the story open for further sequels.
And here it is … 99 Coffins. Caxton is back, scarred physically and mentally from her last experience with Malvern. She’s famous now… she and Arkeley’s adventure was made into a TV Movie called Teeth. And Arkeley is back too, though not as we knew him before. So when a group of grad students unearth a cache of coffins during an archaeological dig on a civil war battlefield, he once again comes to Caxton for help. And down in the dig in Gettysburg, she finds - can you guess? Yup. If you said 99 coffins, give yourself a gold star. Well, actually, she finds 100, so give yourself a silver star. But one of them is smashed and the vampire inside is gone. The other 99 however, are still inhabited.
Wellington’s bloodsuckers are a far cry from Anne Rice’s elegant Fang Pack in a lot of ways. They’re stronger, faster, and much more vicious and animalistic. And at night in their coffins, they degenerate to a sort of protoplasmic goo, which is when they are vulnerable. Destroy the heart and they will not rise again. However, as Caxton discovers, remove the heart and they can remain in a state of stasis that way for years… even hundreds of years. Someone laid this army of the undead beneath the soil of Gettysburg years ago, and now, in present day, one of them has been awakened – and he’s hell bent on resurrecting his comrades in arms.
Interspersed with the modern day tale of Caxton and Arkeley’s search for the new vamp in an attempt to stop him before he succeeds, are flashbacks to the Civil War that tell the story of how the coffins came to their resting place beneath the battlefield in the first place. Both aspects of the story are full of action, suspense and lots of carnage. At one end, Caxton and Arkeley race against time to stop their one vampire from raising 99 more and ravaging the country with an unstoppable force of the undead, and on the other end, Union and Confederate troops face off in a war that changed the face of our nation… using whatever dirty tactics they can.
Wellington knows how to tell a hell of a story. Caxton and Arkeley are wonderfully complex characters who possess much more depth than your usual cliché genre standards. And speaking of clichés, Wellington dispatches them just as much ruthlessness as his vampires dispatch their kills. But he does is smart. Die hard vampire fans will be pleased and completely at home here, but those of us who’ve grown tired of the same shit, different day way the sub-genre has been handled for who knows how long have a lot to enjoy as well. And I have to say, the author has managed to surprise me for the second time during the climax and conclusion, which I consider no mean feat. And once again, the ending hints at further installments… thank goodness!
Horror fans … read this book. It’s the best vampire novel I’ve read in years. I can’t think of a single thing to nitpick or dislike. It was a great, fun, tense and blood-soaked ride from start to finish. What
more could you possible ask for?
5 out of 5