Hellbent by Cherie Priest
Sequel to Bloodshot here, and of course may contain some spoilers for that one. This one finds vampire thief Raylene Pendle taking on a job to recover some bones for one of her fences. See, he’d been working on an “antiques roadshow” sort of affair, and a man brought in a box full of baculae; aka penis bones (stop giggling and look it up!). That’s not particularely exciting in and of itself, but the bones are allegedly those of fantastic creatures such as werewolves and gryphons, the sort of thing that magic-users across the moral spectrum will pay a lot of money for (the bones contain magickal power). The fence thinks he managed to convince the guy that the bones weren’t worth anything, and now he wants Raylene to go steal them. When she arrives at the guy’s house, though, the bones are missing, their owner is dead, and lightning out of a clear sky hits the house just as Raylene frantically exits, the dead man’s cat under her coat. The bones were magic, and the guy was in negotiations wth someone else; someone who killed him, stole the bones, and now has used one to cover up the crime.
Raylene now has a double reason to pursue the bones: to recover them before they are used up and rendered valueless, and to stop the killer from killing someone who doesn’t deserve it.
To add to her troubles, Raylene has taken blind vampire Ian Stott into her home, and now his family is trying to find him. Blind, Ian can’t function in vampire society, but he doesn’t want to leave his family dangling in the wind, either. Perhaps Raylene can clear the books by doing them a favour? Something that might allow her to help her friend Adrian, the ex-navy SEAL turned Drag Queen, find his sister, a vampire who was deafened by the same experiments that blinded Ian? Perhaps I’ll be left waiting for a third book in the series that might never materialise? Ya think?
I like Raylene. She’s not interested in the eternal high-school-clique sort of politics that other vamps seem to be into. Instead, she’s using her abilities in creative ways, as a specialist thief, and turns her home into a safe harbour for strays. And she’s written by Cherie Priest, which is always a plus.
Hide Me Among The Graves by Tim Powers
This is a sequel both to the novel the Stress of Her Regard (which I sorta mentioned way, way back when I was starting to do these and so didn’t really give it a write up) and the short story “A Time To Cast Away Stones”, from the collection The Bible Repairman. However, you don’t have to have read either one to read this one. Basically, two families (one fictional, one the Rossettis of Christina and Dante Gabriel fame) are menaced by creatures haunting 19th century London: creatures that may be vampires, or may be ghosts, or may be both in some strange way. One of them may be the Rossettis’ uncle, the late John Polidori, Byron’s physician during that famous trip to Switzerland.
It’s a long, cyclical novel, with the various parts of it occurring years apart. That makes it hard to say anything in depth about it; another novelist might have made a series of it but Powers packs it all into about 500 pages.
I think that Powers has, over the course of his work, proven H. P. Lovecraft wrong about one thing: the ghost story still has the power to scare, handled correctly. That said, this is more dark fantasy than horror. It is also highly recommended.