Historical/fantasy novelist Hambly (Blood Maidens, 2011, etc.) takes another bite out of crime and otherworldly goings-on in her latest vampire novel.
Accompanied by his brilliant wife, scientist Lydia, and elderly mentor, Dr. Solomon Karlebach, former-spy-turned–vampire-hunter James Asher travels to Peking to investigate the possibility that a new form of the Undead exists. Known as the Others, even vampires fear these creatures. After arriving in the country, James quickly becomes involved in the investigation of a young woman’s murder. Her reluctant fiancé is accused of the crime, and James’ inquiries lead him into the murky Chinese underworld, where his pursuit of the truth behind the murder and his quest of the Others intersect. He discovers that the ruthless head of the most formidable criminal family, Madame Tso, plans to use the Others for her own gain. Two key allies, Don Simon Ysidro, a vampire who died in 1555 (and who appeared in a previous novel), and Japanese nobleman Count Mizukami, assist James as he executes a daring plan that leads them to the Shi’h Liu Mine and the hideous monsters that lurk in the bowels of the earth. Rich in imagery and full of historical detail, the story works well when the author depicts life in the diplomatic community during this particular era of Chinese history; and the parts of the story that describe the characters’ encounters with the Others are deliciously frightening. But the plot becomes somewhat unfocused and difficult to follow when the two merge. Frequent references to events, relationships and entanglements in the first three novels of this series interrupt the flow of this particular story.
For the sake of clarity and continuity, readers would be well-advised to read the previous books in the series before tackling this one.