BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Vampire Joe Pitt investigates a new threat to the vampire clans of New York City.
PROS: Joe Pitt is a great character; fast pace; unexpected plot directions; appealing setting.
CONS: At times it’s hard to believe that the vampire clans trust Joe to the extent that they do.
BOTTOM LINE: This is the best book in the series so far.
Half the Blood of Brooklyn is the third book in Charlie Huston’s consistently entertaining Joe Pitt Casebooks series, following the delicious noir of Already Dead and the down-and-gritty No Dominion. Huston manages to keep this series fresh when others might have started riding out a zone of comfort by now.
This time around Joe Pitt, the streetwise New York City vampire who, for all intents and purposes, is a detective, looks into a new threat to the already-delicate balance of vampire clans in Manhattan. That’s his official task acting as the security chief of The Society Clan, but he’s got other things going on as well – including his strained relationship with his terminally-ill girlfriend, Evie, who is infected with HIV and not the vampire virus.
One of the pleasures in reading the Joe Pitt books is that they are hard to predict. How? Simply put, Joe does the unexpected and it makes the story more interesting. Joe is likable, though not in any conventional sense. So goes the life of an antihero. While he tries to be good (by a set or morals that are fluid at best), he is, after all, still a blood-sucking vampire. His thirst must be quenched and that usually means direct killing or doing the dirty deeds of some clan who pays in blood. There is spin to make Joe look like the vampire-with-a-heart-of-gold, but his actions are off-putting enough that you’d rather not know him. Yet it’s this keen tightrope act of Joe’s behavior that adds to his appeal.
Now throw that against the gritty setting of nighttime New York, the stomping grounds of various vampire clans with different agendas, and you start to see how Joe’s situation gets to be even more interesting. The central plot is meaty enough (A Jewish vampire clan? Oy!) but it’s the things that hang off it that really add flavor. The realistic turf war between clans is the order of the night here and Huston, whose first-person prose helps maintain the noir feel of the previous books, thankfully makes it easy to keep clans and agendas straight. With respect to these various clans, Joe seems to toggle between overt rogue and “team player” (really a covert rogue). With Joe’s unpredictability, it’s a little difficult to see how any of the clans ever trust him to the point that they do, but I guess he gets them results and that’s what matters to them. Seeing how Joe is intertwined with the clans – and how he uses them to evolve – also adds to the attraction to his character.
And then there’s Joe’s relationship with Evie, the love of his life who does not know he is a vampire. She’s close to death and Joe wrestles with the decision to let her die a natural death or “save” her by infecting her with the virus – or “vyrus” if you prefer – which will cure her of AIDS but condemn her to an afterlife trolling the New York streets looking for fresh blood. This moral dilemma – now pushed to decision time after 3 books – adds depth that was otherwise sitting on the back burner. This urgency helps make Half the Blood of Brooklyn the best Joe Pitt book to date.
These books are episodic enough that you don’t have to read them in order, but if you do, you get the benefit of watching this interesting world (and character) morph in interesting directions.