Three Rivers Press
Trade Paper, 320 pages, $13.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
Vampires in most current horror fiction are a paltry, pallid pack of paranormal posers. They are angst ridden, Byronic romantics torn between worlds. Thank goodness for David Wellington for giving the subgenre a much needed transfusion of vintage visceral blood. In Vampire Zero, Wellington’s third novel featuring vampire hunter Laura Caxton, the vampires are pure evil. This is a refreshing reminder, as stated in the book, that “while many different people become vampires, once they tasted blood there was only one of them. One being, one personality. Everything that makes a human being special and unique – the personality, the compassion, the passions, and the hates – are lost and only the pure bottomless need of the vampire remains.”
The vampire that Laura Caxton must deal with this time around is her former colleague and mentor: U.S. Marshall Jameson Arkeley. In the capacity of law enforcement, he had been the leading authority on vampires. Caxton’s knowledge of dealing with the undead is derived from her experience working with Arkeley. She is also beholden to him for saving her life. The catch is that to do so, he accepted the curse of the vampire. Now, Laura must hunt down something that possesses the knowledge of how police operations are run. This gives her adversary an added edge to elude her; its guile and wily attributes are amped up considerably.
As Laura pursues her quarry, she must also fight his minions. Some are half human, others are full vampires. There are many excellent action sequences that are carried out at a breakneck pace. This is a very visual novel; it could easily be translated to film. What would be lost, in translation, however, is Wellington’s excellent prose: “She felt a cold wind blowing toward her and then she was on the floor with the vampire on top of her, pinning down her gun hand, his teeth pressing against her cheek. He felt cold and wrong and stank of death.”
In addition to battling the undead and their protectors, Caxton is engaged in bureaucratic protocol issues which challenge her. She is often at odds with the agency in which she works; her tactics for extracting information are not always legal. Her heroics are hampered by the system. Meanwhile, her personal life with her lover Clara is also at a crossroads. It is hard to maintain a relationship while focusing on destruction.
In Laura Caxton, author Wellington has created a complex character. Her adventures past, present, and future should put vampires and readers of horror on the alert.