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Lady Crymsyn: A Novel of the Vampire Files
P.N. Elrod
Ace Books, 410 pages

Paul Robinson
Lady Crymsyn
P.N. Elrod
P.N. Elrod lives in Texas with her two dogs, a house full of books, tapes, and a full-sized TARDIS.

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A review by Hank Luttrell

P.N. Elrod's Vampire Files series is period vampire romance. The locale is Chicago, the period is post-prohibition. The books are certainly romantic in a general way, as in colourful adventure; and specifically, as the relationship between vampire protagonist Jack Fleming and his nightclub singer girlfriend continues to heat up. Or maybe cools down, since Jack is already undead and seems to be headed toward making his still-living girlfriend a vampire as well. Then neither of them will have much body temperature.

At one time, I think you would have styled Jack a vampire detective, as he sometimes teamed up with a pal who is a private investigator. With this book, he seems to be headed in the direction of being a vampire gangster. He steadfastly maintains that he isn't a criminal, but I think he must be in denial. In previous stories he made fast friends and allies of several powerful crime bosses, and now, with their help, he is laundering some money he found to keep out of trouble with the IRS.

Jack also pursues his dream of opening a nightclub, a real high class joint to be called "Lady Crymsyn." In line with his aim of keeping his hands clean, he doesn't want it to front for gambling. But if the story stays realistic, he may find it hard to run a legit nightclub without additional mob involvement.

Jack even hires an actress to fill the role of "Lady Crymsyn," and a famous artist to create a painting of the Lady to hang behind the bar. This really reminded me of Frank Frazetta's famous painting of Vampirella and all the women I've seen impersonate her at comic book conventions.

Getting the nightclub ready to open is complicated when a skeleton is discovered walled up in the basement, "Cask of Amontillado"-style. Jack puts on his investigator's hat again to find out what has happened.

As a vampire in Elrod's world, Jack can hypnotize people. He can make them spill anything they know, or condition them to act in certain ways. This is a formidable power, and never mind that he can also turn invisible, or infiltrate locked buildings or rooms in the form of vapour. The main limitation to Jack's power -- his kryptonite -- is alcohol. If someone is drunk, Jack's mesmeristic influence isn't effective.

I think perhaps another regular character has been added to the cast with this book. The building in which the nightclub resides has a checkered past -- obviously, what with the skeleton. It is also haunted by a bartender killed during an attack on a bar once located in the building. The ghost seems benevolent, or at least inclined to like Jack Fleming. This somewhat more diverse cast is a good idea. In fact, I would like to see even more supernatural denizens of various sorts. Jack needs to confront antagonists who can stand up to him when they aren't drunk.

Copyright © 2001 Hank Luttrell

Hank Luttrell has reviewed science fiction for newspapers, magazines and web sites. He was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo Award and is currently a bookseller in Madison, Wisconsin.

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