Monday, June 26, 2017

Strange Practice

Greta Helsing runs a rather unconventional medical practice, treating the supernatural denizens of London and its surrounding areas. Her practice is modest and underfunded, but she works hard to make sure every needy patient gets what they need no matter what kind of being they are or how much money they have. She's called in on an emergency call when a vampire is stabbed with an odd knife with a weird substance that caused the wound to fester. She and her friends, who include vampires Ruthven and Varney, sort of former demon Fastitocalon, and human August Cranswell, figure out this attack is tied to a rash of increasing murders by the Rosary Ripper. Together, they will work to protect the supernatural and human community and stop the killer.

Strange Practice is a delightful and unexpected book. This world is basically our own world with a hidden world underneath of it populated by supernatural being including vampires, mummies, ghouls, demons, and even forgotton, eternal creatures. It's  not all rainbows and sunshine as many of these people eat humans, but their goal is to stay out of the public eye for safety. They, like everyone else, have medical problems from time to time and Greta Helsing (the Van was dropped long ago) continues the tradition her late father set in providing care to any and all. Although physical diminutive, she goes into dangerous situations and treats each of her patients with the utmost care and respect. What they eat or how they act is irrelevant. If they need help, Greta treats them even though her practice is underfunded and doesn't make much income. The way she treated the family of ghouls chased out of their home was particularly impressive. Her dreams for her practice are so unattainable due to money and aren't motivated by her own income, but what she can provide for her patients like a sun room and a 3D printer for mummies. When she is targeted by the Rosary Ripper, she could have easily stopped treating supernatiral beings and holed up for her own safety. Greta fought back for herself and her patients against the odds.

The supernatural characters are just as compelling as the humans. Lord Ruthven is one of Greta's one of the first vampires in literature, seen in Dr. John William Polidori's 1819 short story The Vampire. While he was fearsome in the past, Ruthven now battles boredom by restoring classic cars, renovating his home, and cooking. He's polite, cultured, very rich, and proves to be indispensible to Greta and her group. His home is used as their base because he's a powerful being with superhuman strength, hypnotic powers, and great intelligence. I love how he's just a normal person until he's angered or protecting his friends. Varney is also an early vampire in literature in 1847's The Feast of Blood. Unlike Ruthven, he feels a deep guilt about his existence and his food source with a constant stream of angsty thoughts. He wants to belong and has a bit of a crush on Greta which make him a bit more human. I enjoyed the differences between the two vampires and how they became friends through the experience. My favorite supernatual character is Fastitocalon, who appears as an unassuming, chronically coughing, grey complected fiftysomething year old accountant. Underneath all of that, he has the power to read and cloud minds at will. He was friends with Greta's father and one of her family's oldest friends. His combination of being completelu unremarkable and very powerful with a heart of gold is why he's the best.

Strange Practice is a promising start to a new horror and fantasy series that I hope has many more books to come. The characters are well drawn and memorable on both sides. The source of the Rosary Ripper proves to be surprising and a formidable threat to the world. The use of supernatural creatures as an allegory for real life groups looked down upon for inherent aspects is spot on. I look forward to seeing more Greta, more supernatural patients and friends, and a new threat to London. The only part I didn't really enjoy was Cranswell and the last minute romance at the end of the novel. Everything else made this book a fun read perfect for summer. Even the cover design and interior drawings (which I hope are in the finished copy) lent to the whimsical air of the book. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for the second installment Bad Company.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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