on 31 July 2007
PN Elrod's "Jack Fleming, Vampire PI" series is a great read with humour and a fantastic setting in 1930s Chicago with film noir aspects. The story begins with Jack Fleming waking up having crawled out of the sea. No sooner has he staggered to the road when a passing driver clips him with his bumper - clearly on purpose. Jack finds himself in discussion with the car driver and discovers that he is supposed to be dead, killed because he wouldn't tell people where an important list was hidden.
Jack realises pretty quickly that he has become a vampire. Fortunately he knows about the vampire life, having had a vampire girlfriend previously, and he prepares his life accordingly (fetching some of his home earth, finding somewhere safe to sleep the day, feeding from the stockyards). Elrod gives her own particular selection of traits to vampires - garlic, crosses and invitations into rooms don't work, disappearing, extra strength and glamour do. What's fun about this story is that we learn about Jack's skills and nature as he does and because he's clearly not evil, just a pleasant and friendly ex-reporter who wants to get to the bottom of his own death.
Chicago is a city of gangsters and other dodgy types in this story and Jack falls foul of several of them. What's great about Jack as a character is that if he were fully human he would have died multiple times as he really isn't quite up to dealing with these characters. However his vampire nature gets him out of a lot of sticky situations and also enables him to have a great time scaring some of the people who were involved in his death. Assisted by the trusty Charles Escot, a brave private agent and sometime actor, the two of them try to find out why Jack was killed and what was on the list. In the course of their investigations Jack meets Bobbi, girlfriend to one of the gangsters and a surprisingly phlegmatic person who seems able to cope with his vampiric nature.
There are a lot of amusing jokes and allusions to various books and films which went over the head of this relatively young English reader but that didn't matter as the story was always enjoyable. The best parts are when Jack is 'haunting' his killers but the fun is interspersed with some serious moments as he slowly begins to remember all that they did to him and to come to terms with his new nature.
This is an excellent first story in the series and Jack is a great new character, both as a vampire and also as a slightly hapless investigator.