This is the first book in a new series that breathes new life into the tired scary creature genre. It takes special skill and creativity to devise fresh material for the magical realism genre populated with “differently alive” beings. Dr. Greta Helsing (a great-great-etc granddaughter of the original Van Helsing) took over her father's practice and works as a physician of the monster world in London. She treats vampires, were-creatures, ghouls, demons, mummies, and other non-human beings big and small. She believes that they deserve decent medical care as much as anyone else. 

Murdered people turn up around London with plastic rosary beads jammed in their mouths. Greta fights off an attacker. Looking for a safe place, she ends up as a guest at the residence of Lord Ruthven, an old vampire. As the Rosary murders continue, Sir Francis Varney, another vampire, is attacked. He, too, becomes a guest of Ruthven. Before long, Ruthven's house is full of refugees.

It takes a while for Greta and her friends to discover who is committing the murders and why. Eventually they gather enough information to stop the killings...with unexpected results.

Shaw borrows literary characters from 19th century novels and other sources and weaves them into her tale. The medical bits are technically correct, which adds verisimilitude. The writing is quite good and the British turns of phrase give the book a special polish. The relationships Greta has with various creatures feels genuine and grows more compelling through the book.

It makes the reader want another one...and there is! The next book in the series is “Dreadful Company” (July 2018). I live in happy anticipation as enjoyable high-quality escapist literature can be hard to find. Look no further!

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Vivian Shaw
2017. Hatchette Book Group
353 pg, $14.99 pb

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