Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Blood Pact - Tanya Huff

Blood Pact is the fourth book in the series about Vicki Nelson, PI in Toronto. In this novel she receives extremely bad news in the first few chapters concerning her mother’s death – the news gets worse when she travels to Kingston and realises that her mother is being used in an appalling series of experiments. It is the tale of Dr Frankenstein brought bang up to date in a gruesome manner. While Vicki tries frantically to find out who is behind the molestation of her mother’s corpse, she is ably assisted by Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate son of Henry VIII – and a vampire – and Mike Celucci, cop. Both men love Vicki and are trying to win her heart, but all of this is put aside when the three band together against a common foe.

I had my complaints about the last book in this series, feeling that it dragged a little, used a ludicrous plot and made two dimensional cardboard cut-outs of characters that had been powerful in the first couple of books. Sure, here the plot is no less ludicrous – dealing with an insane but brilliant scientist and a university admin chief with desires of riches and glory who are attempting to resurrect the dead – but the characters are richly drawn and very real. For me Mike is the standout – especially in the last third of the book when he and Vicki are racing to find Henry before it is too late. His love for her; his determination and bravery; his wry sense of humour – and, eventually, his ability to sacrifice the woman he loves to another man in order to save her, are just tremendously written.

I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t read the book, but it is explosive and heart rending, and leaves plenty of questions for the fifth and last book.

I have to say that Huff writes with assurance and poignancy concerning the death of a loved one – it is clear that she has experienced the sense of loss felt by Vicki, because the realism and grittiness of her reactions ring very true.

Of course, it isn’t perfect. Huff has clear talent but these books can be quite uneven. For instance, there is a rather odd and under-developed subplot concerning one of the walking dead starting to have feelings for his mistress. Odd and unnecessary.

Also, the fact that Vicki is catatonic, rage-fuelled, lost in grief and obsessed with finding her mother to the point of losing her mind doesn’t make for happy reading. The book is grim and relentless, with very few moments that lighten the atmosphere. Even the humour is of the black variety. However, I would say that this isn’t a negative of the writing – in fact, Huff writes this exceptionally well. It is more a matter of personal taste – when you read as a form of escapism, it doesn’t help to have the real world thrust so spectacularly into a book about vampires and the walking dead!

Just need to point out two little annoyances: Vicki is always pushing her glasses up her bloody nose, and she is always pushing the curl off of Mike’s forehead. Get another description, Huff!

My summary is thus: overwhelmingly creepy (in a good way), and definitely the best of the series.

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