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It sounds like the setup for a horror movie
on 5 January 2010
Kitty Norville is an "out" werewolf with a hit radio show... so it's not surprising that the next step is reality TV.
Unfortunately (for her), "Kitty's House of Horrors" quickly turns from a lighthearted satire on reality TV into a supernatural version of "And Then There Were None." Carrie Vaughn's seventh urban fantasy novel maintains her tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre, but it also takes her series into even darker waters -- there's a big nasty storm brewing, and Kitty is right in the middle of it.
Kitty is approached by a couple of Hollywood reps about "Supernatural Insider," a reality show about the newly-exposed supernatural. After she agrees, she ends up in a mountain lodge with a pair of psychics, a werewolf, a wereseal, two vampires, an annoying skeptic, and the magician Odysseus Grant. Unfortunately, Kitty soon begins to worry about the tensions stirred by the show... particularly since both Grant and the ancient vampire Anastasia suspect that this is somehow entwined with the vampiric Long Game.
Then the vampires' sidekick is found dead, the production crew is strangled, and someone is shooting silver crossbow bolts at anyone who tries to leave. Someone is apparently determined to kill off everybody participating in the reality show, and they've laid elaborate traps all around the lodge. And with no way to get off the mountain, Kitty and her motley band of uneasy allies must find a way to take out their enemies, or be picked off one by one.
"Kitty's House of Horrors" sounds like a pretty standard urban fantasy, except with an Agatha Christie twist. But Carrie Vaughn is picking up some darker plot threads -- the centuries-spanning Long Game, Roman, Anastasia, the prejudice against supernaturals -- and weaving them into a dark tapestry that will stretch into future books. So not only is it a solid fantasy/mystery, but clearly the beginnings of a much more complex, epic story.
And Vaughn does an excellent job with it -- at first there's a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor about reality TV and the contrived stuff they make up; Vaughn even has some fun with Kitty's phone calls, one from an Anita-Blake-style aggressive nympho and a teen vampire wannabe ("I have the innate sense of style and superiority! I feel the music of the night!"). But the tone shifts abruptly when the deaths start.
After that, it's all claustrophobic fear and mayhem, and as the whodunnit builds up to the Big Reveal and a harrowing woodland standoff, she packs the story with guns, booby-traps, bombs, and werewolf attacks. And Vaughn's writing is up to the task -- she has a brisk, steady style with lots of details, and some really beautiful little moments (such as Kitty communicating with a pack of wild wolves).
Kitty is her usual self in this book -- strong, kind, snarky and constantly balancing out her human self with her inner Wolf. The rest of the cast is pretty odd, but Vaughn handles them well, especially Anastasia and Gemma, a pair of vampires who still have very human emotions of loss. The best work is the less sympathetic characters -- Conrad initially seems like a whiny snotty skeptic, but Vaughn fleshes him out and makes you like him.
"Kitty's House of Horrors" serves as a solid whodunnit with lots of blood, bombs and claustrophobic fear, but it also paves the way for more epic stories to come. Nice piece of work.