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Dead Roses for a Blue Lady
Nancy A. Collins
Two Wolf Press, 196 pages


Thom Ang
Dead Roses for a Blue Lady
Nancy A. Collins
Nancy A. Collins is the author of Walking Wolf, Wild Blood, and Tempter, plus the series Sunglasses After Dark, In The Blood, and Paint it Black, featuring punk vampire Sonja Blue. Her short fiction has appeared in such anthologies as The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, Best New Horror and The Definitive Best of the Horror Show. Collins has edited several horror anthologies, and is the founder of the International Horror Guild.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Darkest Heart
SF Site Review: Knuckles And Tales
SF Site Review: Tempter
SF Site Review: Angels on Fire

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

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Sonja Blue isn't like any other vampire. Taken against her will, then thrown out of a moving car and left to die, she was revived on the operating table just enough so that she still has control over herself, even though she's a vampire. The vampire spawn in her head, The Other, is her dark mirror, a sadistic creature whose thirst she must constantly fight. Sonja dedicates herself to hunting the very people who stole her life away. In these eight stories, we see for ourselves that her job is neither easy, or clean cut.

"Knife Point" is not actually a Sonja Blue story, but rather tells us how Erich Ghilardi, who would someday become Sonja's mentor, got the knife that becomes Sonja's chosen weapon. In this dark Indiana Jones story, Ghilardi, obsessed with finding a silver knife that is said to be able to kill any creature of evil, manages to convince a fallen monk, once the high Priest of the Black Shrine dedicated to the Holy Monster, to give him and his companion Multoon directions. As in all good adventure stories, Ghilardi and his shady companion get more than they were looking for. Chronologically the oldest story, it has a very different feel than the others. It takes us to an exotic and creepy world, where anything can happen, and where monks worship the cruelest of all goddesses.

"Cold Turkey" brings us back to Sonja's world. Those who read Darkest Heart might be familiar with it. While bar hopping and looking for Pretenders, evil creatures who pretend to be human in order to troll in their prey, she meets Judd, the only completely normal man who has ever found her truly attractive. This is really unusual for her, because she gives off a low psychic vibe that either makes people avoid her out of fear or pick on her out of aggression. It's a story where we really see what she has to deal with in The Other, and the painful consequences when The Other takes over. It's sweet, because dating and romancing with someone who really seems to like you, genuinely like you, is always sweet, but bitter, because really, what place does she have in her world for him?

Vampires are not the only mythical creatures she deals with. "Tender Tigers" is the first of two connected stories. Sonja sees a little girl all by herself, pushing a cart of laundry. Knowing that little girls are easy targets, she watches her, and meets the ogress that has moved in on her family, giving new life to the stepmonster stereotype. Her decision about what to do with Tiffany and her little baby brother (and half ogre) Cully is very revealing, and will be important in the connecting story. "The Nonesuch Horror" is where we see Cully and his sister again, ten years on. Nonesuch is a community of misfits -- a half coyote, half-man vagyr, homeless humans and more. Their peaceful, if poor, way of life is interrupted by a vampire who's hiding from a very ticked off Sonja. Both stories are interesting because they explore two very different human/monster relationships. The first is more typical, where a human is the unwilling servant to an ogress who just wants to have a family and be shielded by the protective coloring said relationship brings. That would be fine, if she wasn't so evil about it. The other is less so, where a group of people with different cultures, different races, if you will, fit perfectly together to try and have a normal life. What I also liked about the second story was the Hopi/Navajo feel. Changing Woman in particular was interesting -- is she The Changing Woman, or someone who has taken her place in the archetype, and who, when she dies, will pass on her Changing Woman self on to someone else?

Of course, monsters are not the only ones who prey on humans, and not all predators seek death. In "Vampire King of the Goth Chicks" we meet a group of goths who think they've met the real thing. Is he really a vampire, or is it all smoke and mirrors, meant to fulfill his fantasies? We see the harder side of Blue in this story, how in her relentless search for those who would harm the innocent can never be tempered by mercy.

"Variations on a Theme" is one of the stories that Sonja, as she points out, actually gets to watch from beginning to end. It's also one of the stories where she doesn't play a significant role. She encounters a pair of bodies -- gay lovers who were attacked and murdered by a hate group called the Regent Sides. As she's looking at the carnage, feeling regret, one of them wakes up which should be quite impossible since he's been stabbed several times. He's not a ghoul or vampire or any of the other monsters she has seen, but has been brought back by a raven to extract justice for the murder of his true love. In some ways, it's an atmospheric story, and really showcases Sonja's narrative. True, several of these are told in the first person from her viewpoint, but some of the things she says here are particularly lyrical. We also get an idea of the other hard part of her existence, the part that's almost worse than dealing with The Other -- dealing with the bodies that she finds when she's too late to save them.

"Some Velvet Morning" is an extremely clever story. A young woman picks up men, promising them sex but giving them death, all to please her mistress. The identity of this mistress is part of the nifty twist, and I won't give it away. I will say, though, it's an interesting take on a very important bit of vampiric folklore/history.

The final Sonja story, "Person(s) Unknown" is told via police report and interview with a homeless man who happened to witness her at work. We get a view of her from the people whom she helps, one that reassures us that while she never gets thanked or rewarded, she will continue to be uncaught.

To round up the book, there is an excerpt from "Hell Come Sundown," from the upcoming Dead Man's Hand: Five Tales of the Weird West.

Dead Roses for a Blue Lady is filled with many different types of stories, and many different moods. Sonja Blue is extremely well done, likable, earthy, and hard out of necessity. She's not like anyone else; taking the traditional vampire role and turning all that darkness and power into light and hope. I know that she doesn't exist but it makes me feel better, knowing that if vampires do happen to haunt the night, there might be someone like Sonja standing between us and them.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at www.apenandfire.com.


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