Wisecracks, gadgets and fast-paced action sequences abound in the second book about Alex Van Helsing, a 14-year-old boy with a supernatural gift for sensing evil.
The evil, in this case, is old-fashioned malevolent vampires, headquartered in the Scholomance, “a school and a research facility and a massive organization all rolled into one,” hidden under Lake Geneva. Nearby are Alex's all-boys' boarding school, Glenarvon Academy, and a central office of the Polidorium, an international vampire-fighting agency with which Alex is slowly becoming involved. Action is the main focus here, and Alex's two vampire nemeses pose constant threats. Elle, who menaced Alex and his friends in book one, toys with Alex with the elaborateness (and propensity for being foiled at the last minute) of a Bond villain. Ultravox, the new bad guy, is subtler: His genuinely unsettling powers of persuasion can convince humans to attack others or to harm themselves. Astute readers will figure out the vampires' secret M.O. and notice traps before Alex does, and a few references, like a Polidorium agent's horror that Alex hasn't heard of New Wave music, seem thrown in for adults.
Still, humorous dialogue and harrowing escapes will keep action-oriented readers mostly entertained. (Supernatural action. 12-14)