I’m a big fan of Red Nose Studio. They often work with Tor Books, producing quirky little masterpieces of paper and wood and string to grace the covers of the publishing house’s offerings. But their covers for this set of vampiric murder mysteries by author Lavie Tidhar is on another level. The artwork is what initially drew me in. The murder mystery angle of the stories is what hooked me. This should surprise no one who’s followed my feed this summer. It is my current favorite genre. Vampires are my favorite monsters. It was a no brainer.
𝘝𝘢𝘮𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘣𝘦 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘢𝘭𝘴𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘳𝘶𝘭𝘦𝘴 — 𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘤 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘳𝘺𝘱𝘵𝘪𝘤 𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘣𝘦. 𝘑𝘶𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘋𝘦𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘢 𝘷𝘢𝘮𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘨𝘦𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘦𝘯𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘴𝘦 𝘷𝘢𝘨𝘶𝘦 𝘳𝘶𝘭𝘦𝘴. 𝘑𝘶𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘋𝘦𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘦𝘹𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘴.
So I was a little disappointed to find that the mysteries were, unfortunately, mostly trivial and barely mysterious. But I very much got the sense that Tidhar wasn’t aiming to write showy whodunnits as much as he just wanted to have fun with the tropes and conventions of vampire stories — and he very clearly does. (My favorite gag: each and every single vampire prefacing the word “wine” with dramatic ellipses.)
These stories read very much like experiments in style, eschewing the often august, Gothic sensibilities associated with the elegant ghouls in favor of clever subversions and playful, outrageous scenarios. Which is totally fine — just not exactly what I expected.
Still, these stories are very much fun, and I particularly recommend it to fans of 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘞𝘦 𝘋𝘰 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘩𝘢𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘴, as Jonathan, Judge Dee’s milquetoast human companion, reads like a cross between Guillermo, that show’s similarly long-suffering familiar, and Morty, the pushover from, you know, that other show. The titular character himself reads like an aloof Benedict Cumberbatch. Like I said: fun. You can read all three stories that have been released on Tor’s website. My favorite is “Judge Dee and the Poisoner of Montmartre,” mostly due to the brazen ludicrousness of its plot. (These stories have excellent grandiloquent titles, which I appreciate, naturally.)