HALF THE BLOOD OF BROOKLYN
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Another year and another Charlie Huston book about Joe Pitt: hard ass Manhattan vampire. Let me tell you right up front: this is the best one yet!
Huston's first novel in this series, ALREADY DEAD was an incredibly invigorating shot to the vampire genre - at a time when it seemed like the body wasn't worth the trouble to resurrect. That said, there was a canyon-sized rift in the tale between Huston's tale of stunning intrigue, and his unbelievably poor moments of hackneyed exposition and monologue.
In his second book, NO DOMINION, Huston wrote a novel that was every bit as fascinating as the first, yet again had these expositional contrivances. The tale was at least saved by the lack of unbelievable Calvary rescue and deux machina.
Both were otherwise good books with their worst parts in such juxtaposition to their best parts that I reluctantly came back for more. This time I bought Charlie Huston's novel, HALF THE BLOOD OF BROOKLYN, as publishers and PR folks aren't about to keep sending review copies to reviewers of my level who keep handing out mixed reviews. But I gotta tell you, I don't mind having paid my own bucks for HALF THE BLOOD OF BROOKLYN - it's that good.
All the books are about Joe Pitt. That's not his real name and he doesn't allow most people to use his real name. As far as Joe is concerned, when he became a vampire, he became a different man. He is no longer the mortal he once was. On Manhattan Island, there are over 4000 vampires among the five million humans who live there. The Vampires want to keep their numbers low for many reasons. The most obvious is, there is only so much food. And for all of that power a vampire may have over humans, they also have some severe weaknesses. If the humans ever got wind of vampires on their island, the tide of vengeance would roll over the vampires and wipe them from the earth. With that in mind, its a crime in Vampire society to even make another vampire. The population of the island is pretty maxed out. What's more, that small population is divided into cold warring clans with gossamer truces and treaties. The two largest are The Coalition (wealthy white), led by Dexter Predo, and The Hood (low income black), led by Grave Digga.
All of the other clans are considerably smaller with the third largest clan, The Society, trying to band and lead the other smaller clans into one powerful third clan. The leader of The Society is Terry Bird and while this has always been his goal, he's had no success at it. For one thing, while Terry loves to talk about peace and Utopian futures, the truth is that Terry is no better than Dexter Predo and no one outside of Terry's clan likes him any more than they like Dexter or Grave. What's worse, Terry believes that he must allow people who disagree with him on so many things and at so many levels, into his hierarchy: just to show everyone else that The Society is strong enough to withstand dissent. Unfortunately, Terry doesn't seem to realize that the daily chore of putting out all of these fires among the constant infighting of his own clan takes up all of his time, leaving virtually no room for building The Society. Worse, it makes The Society appear unstable to the other smaller clans, who aren't about to join such a fractured group and risk an uprising against the two main clans. Frustrated, Terry decides its time to do something none of the other clans have tried up to now and that's look beyond the borders of Manhattan Island: To cross the rivers into the largely unknown country outside of the island. That's where Joe Pitt comes in.
Joe Pitt is Terry's off again, on again, off again enforcer, one of the most feared in the city. He's worked as both Terry's enforcer and on his own as a rogue. Joe is respected but unpredictable. He has his allies and enemies but what's probably worst for a vampire is that he's in love with a human. And not just any human, but a human dying of AIDS.
Being a Vampire, Joe could cure her, maybe. The thing about that is, the vyrus which makes vampires is a selective thing and kills more people than it successfully infects. Where in the first two books, Evie was suffering but still functioning, in HALF THE BLOOD OF BROOKLYN, Evie is dying. She's laid up in the hospital and it's only a matter of time, maybe even days before it's all over. Joe can't stand that. He can't stand the idea that he could help Evie but that it's against the law of vampires and could end with them both being left out in the sun. To some members of The Society, worse than purposefully turning someone you love into a vampire is trying and failing - killing an innocent human and wasting their blood.
In HALF THE BLOOD OF BROOKLYN, this is still the Pitt we recognize from the first two, but now he's a wounded animal, watching Evie die and helpless to do anything about it. Plus he has his duties to Terry Bird to handle if he wants to stay in The Society, and with everything happening to Evie, now would be the worst time to leave. Terry wants Joe to go into the no-man's land across the bridge and into the New York boroughs of Coney Island and Brooklyn. Terry wants to build alliances there, making The Society stronger, and possibly surrounding all of Manhattan with the Society Clan. But first... hoo!
First you have to talk with those Other clans across the bridge. Those other clans have never had an island to contain them, and their food source is as big as the world. They think different out there, act different too. They're a deadlier species beyond Manhattan. Not necessarily deadlier to humans: that the other vampires could handle. No, those outside clans are deadly to all of the Manhattan clans. But it's not Terry Bird who may be biting off more than he can chew, it's his enforcer Joe, who is already going mad from frustration and heartache. Joe is a man who is on the edge and falling over and is willing to do anything, ANYTHING, to keep the woman he loves alive. And that may not be enough. Because it isn't just Terry and his Society wanting to reach out.
Those Other clans are coming across the bridge and reaching IN. And no one knows THEIR reasons!
Joe Pitt, who was hard but likable in the first two books, begins losing his sense of justice and fairness. Joe is walking in pain and is too blinded by his grief to do all of the right things. This is a harsher, less likable, far more brutal Joe Pitt. And when some of the powerful honchos over Joe's head decide to push him around this time, Joe's going to push right back. As Evie dies, Joe feels he has nothing left to live for and nothing left to lose, making the Island's most feared enforcer become Manhattan's most feared monster. This is hard-boiled pulp fiction at its finest.
Did I have any quibbles? No. Even the expected exposition aka the bad guy's monologue, was carried out in a way that made complete sense. The monologue made sense, the unexpected dangers and rescues made sense. In Charlie Huston's HALF THE BLOOD OF BROOKLYN, everything rocked and socked and punched and Huston never forgot that this has to be a Horror novel as well.
There are Horrors in this one kiddies! Oh yeah!
All Five BookWyrms!
This review copyright 2007 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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