Blood Debt is the fifth and last book in the series by Tanya Huff about Vicki Nelson, Henry Fitzroy and Mike Celluci. We pick up the tale as Henry finds himself haunted by a tormented ghost and realises he needs the specialist help of Vicki.
It is hard to review this book completely without spoiling the events at the end of Blood Pact, but I shall attempt it!
Although there is a ghost involved, the mystery itself is the most mundane out of the five books - concerning an organisation set up to profit from the harvesting of organs. Since Huff persists in signposting her villains, making identifying them extremely easy, these books are not whodunnits and so Huff has to rely on ramping up the tension from supernatural elements. Here there are just human foes - when you have humans one side and vampire the other, you already know who will win (or who should do!), which means the central mystery has no real tension or ambiguity over the resolution.
Instead Huff concentrates on writing tension into the relationships between the three main characters, who have been involved in a love triangle from the second book in the series. I liked the way Huff dealt with Vicki and Henry in this book - it was both heart-breakingly sad and yet hopeful at the same time.
Mike remains a fabulous character. He is by far my favourite character of the series. I love his nobility and his desire to see justice done - but within the parameters of the law. Henry describes Mike best with this:
"Henry had done what he could, but he hadn't been strong enough to finish; he needed more blood. Michael Celluci had offered his, even though he believed that it meant he'd lose everything.
In over four hundred and fifty years of living as an observer in humanity's midst, it had been the most amazing thing Henry Fitzroy had ever seen."
Mike is snarky, clever, exasperated; I love the way he deals with Vicki, alternating between tenderness and arguments - the only thing I wish is that he would get a damn haircut so that Vicki doesn't need to constantly brush that curl of hair back off his face!
Tony comes to the fore here as well. His desire to extricate himself from Henry; his desperation to do the right thing but not hurt others is admirable and written in a realistic way.
I enjoyed the snappy pacing and dialogue-heavy writing. Huff also does a fine job with descriptive passages - bringing places and situations to life with a few efficient words.
I'll make a brief comment on how dated these books sometimes feel - here Tony works in a video store and spends time rewinding the tapes; and one of the characters expresses surprise at the use of a cellphone. Having said that, I shall also say that these books stand up well to the test of thirteen years passing. They still sound fresh and engaging. In a genre now crowded, Huff was one of the first to pair detecting with supernatural forces - and, when reading about Vicki and Henry, you still gain a sense of how exciting and *new* they must have seemed when first released.
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