I'm getting a little burned out on vampire fiction. Thanks to the horrendous Twilight series, it feels like every well-known author is squirting out at least one vampire book -- and most of them are pretty mediocre.
So I pinned my hopes on Cherie Priest (who has already mastered Southern gothic and steampunk) to inject some new blood into the genre that wouldn't bore me silly. "Bloodshot" is the kind of book I call "anti-Twilight" -- a sleek, sexy, gritty thriller with plenty of action, written in a kicky vibrant style. Oh yeah, this is what I want.
Professional vampire thief Raylene is hired by the urbane Ian Stott. Years ago, Ian was kidnapped by the government and experimented on, which caused him to go blind -- and now he needs the files from Project Bloodshot if he has any chance of reversing the condition. But when Raylene accepts the job, she immediately attracts some unwanted attention.
Her search for the files takes her on a cross-country trip, from classified government warehouses to drag queen nightclubs, with men in black following her wherever she goes. With Adrian deJesus (an ex-Navy SEAL drag queen), she sets out to destroy the secret operation once and for all... only to find that someone else is lurking in the shadows.
"Bloodshot" is not your average vampire book -- no Interview with the Vampire-style flashbacks, no wangsting about the woes of immortality, not much in the way of undead politics. By avoiding all the cliches that plague the urban fantasy genre, Cherie Priest ends up producing a sleek, shadowy little thriller that just happens to star a vampire.
Priest's writing glides along smoothly, with just the right amount of gritty realism, tightly-written action scenes, and a vibrant style (one of Raylene's cars is "painted over with a dark green that looked like pond slime at midnight"). Her dialogue is snappy and sharp, and Raylene displays just the right mix of arch wit and down-to-earth sensibility to make her fun to read about. The one downside: it's finished in a satisfactory manner, but a bunch of plot threads are left hanging for the inevitable sequel.
In fact, Raylene is a pretty fun character, period -- she's smart, experienced, ingenious, and has nerves of steel. She's a sort of technologically-adept Arsene Lupin, on a Robert Ludlum mission. And Priest rounds off the cast with two intriguing male leads -- there's the grumpy, feisty drag queen Adrian (aka "Sister Rose), and the elegant, intelligent Ian. Both of them better be in the next book!
"Bloodshot" is a refreshingly gritty, sleek thriller that just so happens to have a vampire, and Cherie Priest left me panting for whatever is next for Raylene.