A bored socialite joins a small band of vampire hunters in Leone’s (Mysterious Albion, 2013) latest thriller, the second in the Vatican Vampire Hunters series.
Nicole, of the affluent van Wyck family, finds her way to a detective’s office, skeptical of a man’s earlier claim that he was a cop. Her doubt was on the mark, and Wally, a PI and leader of a group of vampire hunters, is so impressed with her smarts and resolve that he decides to recruit her. As Nicole is being trained, a fearsome vamp, the Count, and the equally formidable Alice search for three keys to unlock a book that would bring the villains tremendous power. Leone slightly revises vampire lore: garlic and stakes are out, beheadings and setting bloodsuckers afire are in. But his story subverts the possibility of “misunderstood brooders of the tragic night” by making vampirism a form of demonic possession—demons who’ll do whatever they can to prevent being sent back to hell. Holy water and crucifixes can be used as defense, and religious overtones are heavy in places, as with Nicole, who’s initially a casual churchgoer but almost a devout Catholic by book’s end. Leone also has fun with reader anticipation, leading to some rather clever scenes: For instance, the anticipated first kiss between Nicole and Marty, the only other single vampire hunter, is celebrated by a passerby’s “Woo-hoo!” The story’s humor is occasionally blatant—Nicole is assured that the guns used for training won’t bite—but often deviously subtle: A vampire demon says, in mock surprise, “I’ll be damned.” Add to all this an ancient, vamp-killing dagger; a Jewish scholar in cahoots with the Catholic vampire stalkers; and a cameo from the Lord of the Underworld, who hasn’t necessarily sanctioned the Count’s plan, and that’s a recipe for an endlessly diverting tale.
A solid vampire yarn for readers who’ve had enough of moping, love-struck bloodsuckers.