Harrison, Kim. A Perfect Blood.

NY: HarperCollins, 2012.

I almost hate to confess to it, but Harrison is another of my “automatic” authors, those few novelists whose new books I buy without even bothering to read the reviews. Vampire/witchcraft romances are very much not my thing, but I read the first volume in this hugely popular series a few years ago almost by accident — and now I’m trapped. (Is that a charm or a curse?)

The setting is Cincinnati in an alternate time-line in which three-quarters of the world’s population was killed off two generations ago by a bioweapon that got loose and infected the tomato crop. Three-quarters of the human population, that is — the witches, elves, vampires, fairies, pixies, weres, and other humanoid but non-human magic-using inhabitants of the planet who had been here all along, usually in hiding or at least staying carefully beneath the radar, weren’t affected at all. And now they’ve come out to claim their share of the world, and there’s been a touchy relationship between humans and “Interlanders” ever since. Oh, and the demons. Can’t forget the demons. They live in the Ever-After and are a danger to all other beings, all the time — but they’re also still only people.

Rachel Morgan is a sort-of detective, an ex-government agent in partnership with a living (as opposed to dead) vampire and a pugnacious four-inch-tall pixie. It’s been two years — and ten books — since she went into business for herself. During that time, she has become Alpha Female of a were pack (for largely tax and group insurance reasons), been kidnapped by Al (a financially challenged demon), acquired a teenage gargoyle (now functioning as a sort of watchdog), edged around a sexual-romantic thing with her vamp partner, and gone up and down several times in her relationship with Trent Kallamack, a very big businessman whose scientist father was responsible for Rachel’s present genetic condition. That being that she has demon blood, which complicates her life even further. And now she has become the target of a well-financed nationwide secret-militia-like hate group whose goal is the complete eradication of all those non-human life forms from “their” world — a very extreme sort of xenophobic racism indeed. And they want a portion of Rachel’s blood to help them create their own demons in furtherance of their goals.

I won’t even attempt an explanation of the overlapping multiple plot-lines beyond that. Harrison’s regular readers already know you can’t start anywhere but at the very beginning of this series without becoming hopelessly lost by the third page. And, as always, Rachel is left at the end of it all slightly more the worse for wear, peering hopefully into the future but knowing there undoubtedly are more trials and tribulations ahead, largely as a result of her gift for making bad decisions. All in all, I have to say it’s an enjoyable entry in the series, and I’ll be waiting patiently for the next one.

However. In all my sixty-plus years of avid and relentless reading, Harrison is the only author I can recall whose books I have really enjoyed while nevertheless gritting my teeth over the frequently awkward style and the often sophomoric word-choices. Like, “Glenn, Ivy, Jenks, and myself peered into the hole.” Really? She also often engages in odd constructions, like having Rachel make third-person observations of herself: “My expression became weary.” There’s not a page goes by without several wince-making locutions of this sort. And this is the tenth book in the series. You’d think she would have learned, or that her editor would have assigned a minion to quietly take care of it. Harrison is really good at complicated, highly original plots and equally good at well motivated and fully developed characters, but she’s still badly in need of an astute English major with a blue pencil to follow along behind her and save her from herself.

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