More than any other 'monster' in literary history, the vampire has experienced a significant evolution (not to mention bastardization) over the last few decades. It has been romanticized, eroticized, moralized, and humanized, until what was once a straightforward staple of horror fiction has become a genre all on its own. It used to be that you knew what to expect when somebody handed you a vampire book, but now you're just as likely to get a watered-down, young adult, faith-fuelled romance as you are a decent thriller.
Call me a traditionalist, but I'll take the good guys hunting bad vamps any day of the week - which is precisely where The Vampire Hunters comes in. In case you couldn't tell by the title, Scott M. Baker has crafted a 'classic' vampire tale, one where a pair of ex-cops and their ex-criminal sidekick must do battle with creatures from the wrong side of the crypt.
Drake and Alison are your typical vampire-hunter heroes, out-matched and out-muscled by their supernatural foes, and mistrusted and misunderstood by their human colleagues. They're well-developed, with just enough background details to carry the story along, and a solid working relationship that flirts with just the right amount of romantic tension. It's James who really brings the team to life, though, a late addition who fulfills the standard role of armourer/apprentice, but who has a back story worthy of its own book. There's even a mysterious benefactor, one with enough money and power to keep the team safe from police interference, and a crack journalist, slumming with a tabloid rag in search of her big break, to round out the human element.
Similarly, Ion and Toni are your typical vampires, centuries old lovers-turned-rivals who are more interested in vengeance than in self-preservation. It's their back story that really brings the story up an extra notch, establishing not just their supernatural existence, but their cruel behaviour. The early flashback where they escape a horde of WWII flamethrower-carrying soldiers, in a stolen Russian tank no less, is precisely where I went from reader to fan. Toni carries much of the present day action, but the spectre of Ion is always there, ready to rear his ugly head at the right moment.
In terms of action, this is a kick-ass tale that borrows from the best of action, thriller, and horror genres. The early chase scene, with Drake clinging tenaciously to the back of a vampire-driven tanker truck, is nothing but pulse-pounding fun until its fiery end. Not to be outdone, there is a crazy, claustrophobic, paranoid battle within a darkened theatre that concludes up the tale, one which probably carries on a bit too long, but which keeps the reader absolutely breathless until the sun comes up.
There were some definite twists to the story that surprised me but, for the most part, this was exactly what I was expecting - a solid, enjoyable tale of ordinary heroes out to exterminate the vampires preying upon their city. Violent, gruesome, and vulgar where it needs to be, The Vampire Hunters is clearly a book where the author had as much fun in the writing as we do in the reading.Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins