BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Private detective John Justin Mallory searches an alternate Manhattan for the vampire that bit his partner’s nephew.
PROS: Humorous characters and dialogue; Mallory is a very likable character; a quick read.
CONS: A more complex mystery may have made the book even more enjoyable.
BOTTOM LINE: Read this as a comedy with a mild mystery flavor.
One of the benefits of reading a sequel is that you (usually) know what to expect. When I recently read the reprint of Mike Resnick’s Stalking the Unicorn, I was a little put off by it, more because of my apprehension towards elf fantasy than anything else. But Resnick mixed it up with copious amounts of humor and that helped me enjoy the book. The sequel to Stalking the Unicorn (which was originally written 21 years ago) is the recently-released Stalking the Vampire, and thus I knew what to expect going in: comedy.
This time around, we join Private Detective John Justin Mallory on Halloween. In the book’s alternate Manhattan, the creatures that we think of as fictitious – goblins, harpies, gremlins, vampires – they’re all real. Mallory’s partner, Colonel Winnifred Carruthers, is discovered to have bite marks on her neck. It is learned that they came from her nephew who was, in turn, bitten by a new vampire in town. Mallory and his offbeat crew spend the night trying to track him down.
Like the previous book, Mallory follows a series of linear clues and winds his way across town trying to locate his target. This is about as complex as the plot gets and as complex as it needs to be. Despite the main character being a Private Detective, Stalking the Vampire is not a mystery book as much as it is a comedy with a mystery feel. But again, this is exactly what was expected from the previous reading experience and I found that the book was enjoyable when approached in such a fashion. Read it as an Abbot and Costello comedy routine. Not all the jokes work, but most do and there were even some laugh-out-loud moments.
Much of the humor came from the well-written characters and their smarmy dialogue. Mallory (a very likable, smack-talking character in his own right) and his usual sidekicks (the sensible Carruthers and the one-track-minded cat girl named Felina) are joined by some new faces: like Bats McGuire, an uncharacteristically short and harmless vampire with an inferiority complex; and Jack “Scaly Jim” Chandler, a reptilian mystery writer who joins Mallory on a “ride along” to make his own fictitious, lecherous detective more realistic, and is repeatedly surprised. These new additions to the character roster add lots of humor to the story. There are also many secondary characters sprinkled in, usually to expand the comedy even further. For example, Mallory has repeated run-ins with goblins who try to sell him completely useless items. Resnick also mixes in brief bits of real-life commentary for additional meta-humor, like mentioning how vampire love stories outsell detective vampire stories, or how popular music has devolved into rap. These smack of personal opinions but really do mesh well with the overall tone of the book.
It’s obvious that Resnick had fun writing these lighthearted Mallory stories and with Stalking the Vampire, that enjoyment easily spills over to the reader.