BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Rogue vampire Joe Pit is back to search for a missing girl whose unborn child could affect the impending war between the vampire clans.
PROS: Joe Pitt is (still) a great character; unpredictable plot twists; fast paced and engaging story; Huston is not afraid to change up his cast of characters.
CONS: Sometimes hard to tell who was doing the speaking.
BOTTOM LINE: Another enjoyable chapter in the Joe Pitt Casebooks.
Saying that the fifth book in Charlie Huston’s wonderfully gritty Joe Pitt vampire noir series, My Dead Body, offers “more of the same” is selling it short. That’s because such a statement underplays the delicious texture of the story, the unpredictability, and the fast-paced plot.
For those who are not aware of the series, Joe Pitt is a rogue vampire in a modern day New York City full of secret vampire clans that are at odds with each other. Over the course of the previous novels (Already Dead, No Dominion , Half the Blood of Brooklyn and Every Last Drop), Joe has floated from clan to clan, doing dirty (and bloody) work wherever it was needed, and his actions upset the status quo in vampire clandom, driving him to hide in the tunnels underneath the city. Now, he is drawn out by a search for a girl whose unborn child could affect the impending war between the clans — a war which Joe had no small part in bringing about, mind you.
Before you roll your eyes at this being yet-another-vampire-novel, allow me to offer this advice: Leave those trendy, angst-ridden vampires in your kids’ locker because these vampires are gritty, tough, and take no prisoners. The Joe Pitt stories read like crime stories (Huston’s familiar stomping ground) where the protagonist happens to be a vampire. And the other characters are no better; they’re thieves, thugs and mobsters. It would be impossible for Pitt to move around this dangerous landscape without incurring a few bruises, and he does. Big time. Violence is as much window dressing here as the vampires are.
My Dead Body gives readers a better look at some of the characters in this series. I hesitate to call them recurring because Huston is not afraid to alter his cast at the flick of a switchblade. They die off left and right, as if Charlie Huston is cleaning house. That unpredictability is part of the allure of this series. It continues to entertain as Joe jumps from one dangerous situation to the next; whether he’s fighting off genetically mutated monsters or your average muscle-bound enforcer. (There is even a dash of zombie thrown into the mix.) The book’s simple, albeit interesting, missing-persons plot is more than bolstered by the advances made in the larger story arc. For example, readers learn more about the Vyrus that makes people crave blood.
If I have to find a quibble this time around (and I do) it’s in Huston’s dialogue. By now, I’m used to unconventional style that forgoes quotation marks in favor of a starting dash. What was problematic here was that it was sometimes difficult to tell who was doing the speaking. Furthermore, the conversational dialogue made for many incomplete sentences. While this did lend an air of streetwise flavor (as was intended) it did also hamper reading to some small degree.
Do you need to read the previous books to enjoy this one? Allow me to quote myself from a previous review: “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.”