June 8, 2007
"13 Bullets" by David Wellington (Three Rivers Press, 336 pages $13.95).
The most basic mistake any hero or heroine can make is to think that he or she has put the big beastie down for good.
David Wellington's "13 Bullets" opens with the hero presumably wiping out the last vampire nest, leaving vampire-in-chief Justinia Malvern to rot in a special prison. Everyone thinks vampires are history, but veteran vampire hunter Jameson Arkeley knows it's not over. Vampires, as the legend goes, have all the time in the world.
When the bloodsucking fiends strike again 20 years later, Arkeley chooses tough state trooper Laura Caxton to be his backup as he again tries to figure out Malvern's evil plans.
Wellington's vampires don't cringe at crucifixes, but they do shred nicely when shot with Arkeley's illegal "cross point" bullets. "It's like every bullet is a little fragmentation grenade," says Arkeley, explaining the art of 21st century vampire slaying.
Like most vampire tales, "13 Bullets" is limited, lacking the general creepiness of Stephen King's classic "Salem's Lot," or the sharp, pop culture savvy of TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." But unlike King - or Bram Stoker, for that matter - Wellington doesn't make his readers wait for action. The hero is squeezing the blood out of an eviscerated vampire's heart by page 15 and the carnage doesn't stop until the last bloody page.
In the anticlimactic end, neither the dead nor vampire hunters get to rest.
"13 Bullets" is a fast-paced read in the spirit of hard-boiled detective fiction, but the story will most likely appeal only to fans of the genre who can appreciate a hero who shelves the wooden stakes and crossbows of old for the flesh-ripping power of a bullet.