Review: “Blood Trail,” Tanya Huff

Pros: Engaging, interesting, and tense
Cons:
Rating: 4 out of 5

Vampire Henry Fitzroy has a favor to ask of Vicki Nelson–Vicki is an ex-cop and current PI, and he knows a few werewolves who could use her help. Someone’s killing them with silver bullets, but thanks to incredible marksmanship and careful planning, they can’t catch his scent. They have no idea where to start looking, particularly since their small town doesn’t offer many places to hide. It’ll take the instincts of a trained investigator to figure out who’s shooting at them–before they lose anyone else.

 

Blood Trail is the second book in Tanya Huff’s “Blood Books” vampire series. It can also be found as the second half of the omnibus volume The Blood Books, Vol. 1 (Blood Price / Blood Trail). Blood Price is the first volume of the series, and while not as stunning as, say, Huff’s more recent Confederation novels, is still a good vampire/police tale. Blood Trail is even better, with great pacing and plenty of tension.

I love Tanya Huff’s take on werewolves. This book was originally published in 1992, well before most of the modern shapeshifter urban fantasies, and she dove right into the notion of what makes werewolves different from both wolves and humans. Thinking about those more recent tales, I particularly appreciate that she delves into the realm of shapeshifter sexuality without simply stopping at an easy combination of dominance/submission and the ol’ one-true-mate standby. Pack sexuality is much more interesting, and has some complex family dynamics.

Vicki’s relationships with the two men in her life–Henry, and her ex-partner Mike Celluci–are getting complicated. She and Henry are dancing around the question of where they’re taking things next. Mike isn’t quite willing to let go of Vicki yet, and doesn’t trust Henry even a little. Celluci is in danger of stumbling into Henry’s secrets, especially when he decides to follow Vicki out into the countryside. His unwelcome involvement in the werewolves’ business forces both him and Vicki to face questions about ethics, morality, and the law that neither of them wants to deal with. I appreciate how Huff explores this part of their personalities and relationship; she doesn’t hand-wave it away, nor does she draw it out too far. I also like the fact that Vicki’s relationships aren’t cut-and-dried. She’s allowed to have feelings for both men, and each of those relationships is very different.

Ms. Huff employs her usual skill at creating fascinating secondary characters. The werewolves have a ton of personality as they shift back and forth at a moment’s notice, displaying both animal playfulness and predatory dangerousness. Their natures and personalities interfere with Vicki’s attempts to keep them safe, and they have difficulty coming to grips with a danger they can’t see.

The plot isn’t terribly complex, but manages to provide plenty of tension. The pacing is fantastic, and I got completely caught up in the dangers of the climax!

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