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So I’m a Vampyre. Spelled with a Y instead of an I. Capitalized like it’s a name. Don’t ask me, just tradition I guess. Anyway Vampyre with a Y, that’s the real deal. With an I, that’s for scaring babies.
I’m the kind that scares everyone.
So here we are. Emmet’s breaking his own rules again. One of the conditions I took on as a book reviewer was that I would not read the same author more than once. I definitely would not follow up on a series. Now I have cheated on this before – Michael Moorcock has featured more than once. But I am throwing caution to the wind with this one.
My Dead Body is the final book in Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt Casebook’s series. I reviewed the penultimate book a few months ago. When I saw the last Joe Pitt adventure on the library shelf, I could not stop myself from snapping it up.
Our Vampyre hero got into a spot of bother in the last book. For one he has burned his bridges with every clan leader and gang in Manhattan island’s supernatural underworld. How he managed this impressive feat, apart from being overly fond of running his mouth off, was by discovering that the largest organised group of Vampyres, the Coalition, has a very ugly secret behind its inexhaustible stock of human blood. Rather than act on this information, he made sure everyone else found out and then walked into the sewers under the city to wait out the inevitable war.
Now an old friend has tracked him down, claiming to have been sent by the estranged love of his life Evie. He passes on a message from her, that he has to do something, take a stand in this conflict he set off between the clans. She also wants him to track down a young couple who have run away. His friend Chubby Freeze is the father of the girl, whose fascination with vampires led her to find one and wonder of wonders, they fell in love. In an added twist, she has become pregnant by her Vampyre lover.
Turns out rival Vampyre gangs the Coalition and the Society have decided this couple are too important to run free. A human/vampire hybrid represents a threat, as it could expose the secrecy they live beneath. It also offers an impossible future to the community, one that represents an incredible amount of power if a party were to control these two young people.
Then add the increasingly disturbing experiments of genius scientist Amanda Horde on the ‘Vyrus’ and you have a potential powderkeg of pent-up violence bubbling away. One entirely of Joe’s making.
Huston ably builds events to a gripping climax, referencing the events of the previous four books to show how much of this last book was seeded from the very beginning. One of the real pleasures of the series is Joe’s own no-bullshit attitude and the quick dialogue. For the sake of contrast, Huston has the pregnant vampire bride Delilah insist on roleplaying even in the midst of a massacre. Her dialogue is laugh out loud funny and possibly a dig at Stephenie Meyer/Anne Rice’s expense.
Joe Pitt suffers, a lot, in these books and in My Dead Body the amount of damage he goes through triples. This night riffs on noir fiction as a vampire protagonist can presumably suffer an even more ridiculous degree of suffering. His sardonic narration acts as a counterpoint to the pain the character feels, letting the reader know that as extreme as this material might seem, it is meant to be entertaining.
I had a great time reading these books. Check out the Joe Pitt Casebooks for yourself.
I blow some smoke at the ceiling
-I feel like I’m forgetting something. Vyrus. Clans. Zombies. Stay out of the sun. Don’t get shot. Abandon your life. Drink blood to survive.
I shake my head.
-No. Guess that pretty much covers it.
See I have some problems in reviewing this book. First off, it’s the fourth in a series called The Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston. So I can’t really give away any of the specifics of the plot that might spoil readers who go on to check the series out. And you should check these books out. Secondly, as is abundantly clear by now, I’m a fan. I didn’t just read this book, I gobbled it down and asked for seconds. Sadly my library does not have the next title in the sequence – My Dead Body – so I have to be patient and hope this latest cliff-hanger doesn’t drive me nuts before I get my hands on the concluding story.
Charlie Huston is well-known for his crime fiction, such as Caught Stealing and has just had his novel The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death optioned for HBO by Alan Ball. Yes the guy behind True Blood, which is ironic, given that The Joe Pitt Casebooks are about a vampire gang-banger in Manhattan, trying to carve out a life for himself while eluding the machinations of the competing ‘Clans’, who control the island itself. Huston plays to his strengths here, with Joe being a down on his luck thug for hire who just happens to be a vampire. Occasionally he would do a job from one of the big Clans, which allows him to operate on their territory. Huston introduces further tropes from noir fiction with The Coalition, the biggest clan, resembling smart-suited Mafioso’s. Then there’s The Society, a bunch of anarchists led by Terry Bird who speaks in mixed metaphors and harps on about revolution, Charles Manson-style. There’s the Enclave, religious fundamentalists– yes, we have undead mujahideen here too. Finally there’s the Hood, a vampire street gang not too fond of white folks.
It’s an interesting mix of traditional vampire themes and modern fictional tropes. Joe Pitt himself is your typical antihero, capable of being quite cruel at times, but also possessing a code of sorts that allows you to root for him. As an independent ‘rogue’, owing fealty to none of the Clans, his position on Manhattan Island has always been tenuous. He’s always been a bit like Clint Eastwood’s stranger from A Fistful of Dollars, playing the Clans off against one another to buy himself more time. Half the Blood in Brooklyn brought matters to a head and this book deals with the fall-out.
Joe’s been living in exile for over a year in the Bronx, trying not to draw any attention to himself now that he’s burned his bridges with the Clans. Finally an opportunity arrives to return across the water. Joe’s got unfinished business in Manhattan. There’s Amanda Horde for one, the billionaire heiress he met during the events of Already Dead. She’s a human who knows all about vampires, with money enough to do something about it. She makes the Clans nervous and given her friendly disposition to Joe, he’s asked to find out what exactly she is planning. Then there’s the bounty on Joe’s head that he needs to clear and the possibility of all-out Clan war. Most of all, he’s heading back to Manhattan to find the girl he left behind a year ago. The girl he loves whose life he saved and who may just kill him for it.
Huston’s increasing the pace of the action with each book in the series and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for his grand finale. For the most part these have been books set in the familiar world of noir fiction, despite Joe’s unusual abilities. However, in Every Last Drop Huston introduces a vision of absolute horror that disturbs as much as it frightens. There’s a sense that he’s taking the gloves off, having established enough of the world in the previous novels to now smash it to pieces.
Smart, brutal and inventive, with foul-mouthed dialogue to die for.