Longtime readers of this blog know I’m proud to call David Wellington a close friend. I’m also a big fan of his novels, including the Laura Caxton series of vampire novels, which concludes with this year’s 32 Fangs.
And what a conclusion it is! Laura Caxton, once a State Trooper but now a fugitive from the same cops she once called friends, has laid a trap for Justinia Malvern, the last and most dangerous of the vampires, while she hides out among the “witchbillies,” who live off the radar in Pennsylvania’s hollows. Meanwhile, Laura’s ex-girlfriend Clara Hsu, along with their one remaining ally on the police force, Officer Glauer, are searching for her during their free time, careful not to alert their boss, U.S. Marshal Fetlock, who is still intent on taking Caxton in. But Malvern still has a few tricks up her sleeve, and soon everyone is caught up in a deadly ambush that will lead to the final confrontation between vampire and vampire hunter.
The novel is as fast-paced and imaginative as anything Wellington has written before. One of the things I enjoy so much about his work is that he often takes things in unexpected directions, and one thing that keeps catching me by surprise is his use of magic. In modern horror novels, vampires, zombies, and werewolves are usually given a pseudoscientific origin. Viruses, usually. Wellington, who has written about all three of these iconic horror tropes, chooses to give each of them a more fantasy-based origin. The curse of vampirism, for instance, is passed on through a spell, not through an infection from being bitten. The witchbillies of 32 Fangs are a great invention, too, with their down-home spells, clairvoyant predictions, magic clocks that must never stop ticking, and big summer barbecues. I kind of wanted to go live with them afterward. My favorite parts of the novel, though, are the flashbacks to Malvern’s history interspersed throughout. Until now, her past has been a mystery to readers of the series, and I found her life story compelling, fascinating, and suitably repulsive.
32 Fangs is a thrilling climax to the Laura Caxton series, and one of Wellington’s best novels to date. I highly recommend it for fans of the series. And for those who want to give the series a try, start with the first one, 2007′s 13 Bullets.