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Murderous monks run amok underneath London in this contemporary supernatural tale.

Thirty-four-year-old Dr. Greta Helsing has run a very specialized clinic for five years after taking over for her late father, Wilfert Helsing: she treats the “differently alive” (aka vampires, ghouls, mummies, etc.) that roam in the shadows of London, keeping to themselves and avoiding the public eye. When her good friend Edmund Ruthven, a 400-year-old vampire, calls to tell her that Sir Francis Varney, a very famous vampire, showed up on his doorstep gravely wounded, she can’t get there fast enough. He has a cross-shaped stab wound that’s making him very ill, and he tells of an attack in his flat by a bunch of men (or are they?) dressed like monks, chanting strange phrases. The garlic they drenched his home in added insult to injury. It’s a strange story, but when Greta is attacked in her own car by one of them, who tries to slit her throat no less, seeing is believing. She escapes and gets the dagger after spraying her assailant with a heaping helping of pepper spray, hoping it will get them closer to finding out what they’re dealing with. Meanwhile, a vicious killer inevitably dubbed the “Rosary Ripper” is stabbing people to death and leaving cheap plastic rosaries in their mouths. Could it be the work of the rabid monks? Greta, Ruthven, Varney (who’s having an existential crisis), along with old friend of the family Fastitocalon (of still undetermined supernatural stock) and August Cranswell of the British Museum, are keen to find out and stop the madness, and the killing, for good. Shaw’s affection for her characters is obvious, and Greta is a sensitive, genuinely nice person who loves her job, is unerringly discreet, and cares deeply about her patients, even ones that try to kill her. She’s always innovating new methods of treatment, such as replacing the bones of a mummy’s foot so entropy won’t set in or treating depression in a rat fur (with tails)–draped ghoul chieftain. Readers will look forward to more of Greta’s adventures.

An imaginative, delightfully droll debut.

Pub Date: July 25th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-316-43460-7
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Orbit
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2017


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