Vampires in Edwardian England, brought to vigorous undeath in this entertaining and atmospheric hard-cover debut by prolific fantasist Hambly. Who's been killing the vampires of London, tearing open their coffins to let in lethal sunlight as they sleep--and then drinking their blood? The city's oldest vampire, aristocratic Spaniard Don Simon Ysidrio, needs lo find out before he too is destroyed--so he makes James Asher an offer that the ex-spy, now Oxford don, can't refuse: track down the killer and Don Ysidrio won't suck the life from Asher's lovely wife, Lydia. With Ysidrio as his guide and sometime-protector, Asher penetrates the secret society of vampires, questioning vamps young and old, slobbering and seductive, for clues. After enduring a mass-vampire attack (Asher's a toothsome morsel) and a spooky encounter in a Parisian charnel house with the oldest vamp of all, Asher pinpoints the killer: a human mutated into a monstrous vampire (""under the pulled-back lips the fangs were huge, broken tusks that had gouged deep furrows into the pustuled skin of its chin"") in a mad experiment gone awry. Before Asher and Ysidrio can dispatch the fiend, Lydia's taken hostage, and man and vampire must forgo their blood enmity to save one another and Lydia--in a rousing climax at an isolated mansion with the mutant vamp snarling and clawing in an orgy of blood-letting. Readers not put off by the high gore (if low sex) quotient will find this to be one of the more memorable vampire novels of recent years--smoothly written, suspenseful, awash in moral ambiguity, and rich in vampire lore. Certainly not as literarily accomplished as the Anne Rice novels, nor as downright scary as Salem's Lot, but still a must-read for vampire fans. The publisher hints that this novel may be the kick-off for a series--good news.