The Blackburn & Scarletti Mysteries: Volume 1
Black Death Books (KHP Industries)
Trade paperback, $14.99
Reviewed by Nickolas Cook
Comprising of two novellas (Sins of the Father and The Hyde Effect) and one short story (“The Sign of Six”), Koehler’s wryly clever, action packed fiction seems to feed on two arteries: the current action oriented horror/fantasy cinema, and to a lesser extent, paranormal romance fiction. But where both of these influences tend to become tedious and overblown by a lesser talent, Koehler also has a horror craftsperson’s eye and manages to reign in the over-the-top aspects to present a collection of fast paced and thoughtful fiction – something to which most genre fiction of this nature can hardly lay claim.
This isn’t simply another vampire novel dressed in Goth gear and fangs. Koehler knows how to tell her story. Some will undoubtedly be put off by the ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ approach to her world building, but she presents a well rounded and thought provoking take on a world of magic and monsters. At times the main characters might feel a little familiar, especially if you’re a fan of The X-Files, but both of them become more than flat and lifeless constructs going through the motions. Koehler makes then feel alive and real, as they emote and grow, evolving into flawed individuals that want to do right for the right reasons, and have to make some difficult moral decisions. That’s quite a feat in such a short amount of space as a novella. Granted, the two novellas dovetail, but there is a distinct demarcation between the stories, especially in the evils they must conquer.
The short story tends to feel a bit like filler by the end of the book. But it was nice to catch up with Blackburn and Scarletti, even if for only a little more before the last page is turned.
What else does Karen Koehler have in store for vampire and horror fans? Well, cheer up, folks. Volume Two has recently been released for all you blood thirsty Slayer fans.