MtSnow reviews Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price (Published by JCP Books, January 28, 2017, 271 pages. Released on audio September 28, 2017, 10 hrs 25 mins length, Narrated by Joel Leslie.)
Note: a copy of this audio was received from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.
Mark Hansen thought working as artist’s assistant would be glamorous, especially if that artist was a vampire. Black tie events, witty repartee, gracing the pages of the local style section. Didn’t happen. Not even once.
Jonathan Varga is an enigma. True, he’s quiet, generous, and scrupulously polite. But he has zero social life, refuses to be interviewed or photographed, and insists he can only consume feline blood.
Why supermarket blood won’t suffice, Mark hasn’t asked. He’s rarely at a loss for words – he can dish an insult and follow it with a snap as quick as you can say “Miss Thang.” But one look at Jonathan’s black-as-sin gypsy eyes, and Mark’s objections drain away.
So he endures the perpetual grind of their routine: Jonathan hiding in his studio, swiping black paint onto black canvases. Mark hurling insults while he buffs the office to a shine with antiviral wipes. Each of them avoiding the other in a careful choreography…until a blurb in Art in America unleashes a chain of harrowing events neither of them could foresee.
As secrets from Jonathan’s past are brought to light, it becomes clear that all his precautions weren’t nearly enough.
I know other stories have used a similar premise of relating vampirism to a virus, but no one can do it in the same way that JCP does. Wow. I gotta say, again. JCP does NOT disappoint. Always a winner! And the characters are always flawed in such a way, you still gotta love em.
So. This virus thing, well it just so happened to come around after HIV, and is considered WAY worse, with everyone taking extreme cautionary measures to not in any way touch anything or get in close proximity to someone with the virus. And talk about the king of OCD? That’s definitely got to be Mark Hansen.
In the beginning, I thought that Mark was being paranoid the way he was so particular and fastidious with his so MANY pairs of gloves. Changed to do this. Changed again to do that. Oh. Small chance he touched something that Jonathan did too even hours or days before? Change, again. I imagined VERY dry hands, with all the antibacterial lotion and wipes on skin, surfaces, clothing. Yeesh! Everything must’ve constantly smelled like alcohol! Ick!! So careful with his gloves, his clothing, all exposed surfaces, and anything that may have shared a proximity with his reclusive artistic employer, Jonathan, whom also just so happens to have this blood virus.
Jonathan was fascinating. I enjoyed how he had this kind of Transylvanian accent…’I Vant To Drink Your Bloood…’ But. He didn’t. The way he feeds? Well, Mark is responsible, not just for selling Jonathan’s paintings, but also to go ‘shopping’ for his employer’s FELINE blood. CATS!! Right?!. Reasoning is, he HAS to have blood from a ‘non-prey’ animal, which keeps him from being able to use bovine or deer, or any other creature’s blood. And why not human blood? Well, I guess it’s the optimal source, but only if it’s directly from a human. Blood bank product clots way too quickly. We find out later on why it’s so important he not partake of PREY animal blood.
I admit, in the beginning it was hard to get much feeling for Jonathan. He is slightly agoraphobic, so he doesn’t venture out to look for his own sources or sell his own paintings. In fact, he never goes to the galleries where his paintings are shown! Except. Well, it seems he has decided a change is in order. And there starts our adventurous thriller.
You almost wonder at the way Jonathan acts so stand-offish with Mark, who has done so much for him for more than 3 years! BUT as a successful artist, who paints what looks like giant, plain, BLACK canvases (come to find out, they only LOOK black to the Human eye) well, he has loads of money, and part of Mark’s job description was to be his Man-Friday it seems.
As the story progresses, and odd though it is, these guys both seem to have created their individual roles in the relationship for self preservation purposes. And then, one day, everything changes.
Some of the supporting characters were rather fascinating. Mark had to go to extremes to find a blood source, and well, there is a cat lady, who is also a bigot, that is their most recent goto person to get fresh blood. Frozen bank accounts, a chase through a subway, a rat-man, a goth girl, a surfer dude, a remade ice-cream truck, and all kinds of weird things I would never have thought of made this story fun and exciting.
A twist I found rather interesting was that those with vampirism had such high metabolisms, they had to drink gallons of water to keep hydrated. PLUS they needed a high fat source, so they drink oil by the quart! I found myself kinda getting grossed out imagining having to drink a whole bottle of oil daily instead of being able to eat real food. Everything for them is different flavored waters.. can you imagine drinking MEAT flavored water??
Anyway. The author did an excellent job of creating another alternate world that is so close to current reality, but with a twist. I LOVE her style, and know I will always be heading on a journey that pushes my ideas of what is and is not a comfortable place we all take for granted.
Even though it took a bit to warm up to either character in the beginning, as soon as I was exposed to the back story, things became much more interesting, and I found myself feeling compassion for people I might not have previously.
This one has slight horror elements, but even with all the blood references, nothing seemed overly gory to me. There was, as usual, the sarcasm and descriptive world-building we can always depend on from JCP. As usual, enjoyed the journey, and I was excited to see how things would resolve. I almost finished this all in one sitting, begun in the evening after work, reading all thru the night (great atmosphere for vampires & blood!) and wishing I had more, even AFTER the bonus short story at the end!
I was VERY pleased with the resolution and think anyone that likes this author’s sardonic style will not be disappointed. I own the first edition in paperback, but think the updates made to this version, the new gorgeous cover art, as well as the short bonus story at the end, make this an excellent addition to anyone’s library.
Highly recommended to all. Joel Leslie was the PERFECT narrator for this one.
10 Pots of Gold equivalent to 5 of 5 stars.
Author and artist Jordan Castillo Price writes paranormal thrillers colored by her time in the midwest, from inner city Chicago, to small town Wisconsin, to liberal Madison. Her influences include Ouija boards, Return of the Living Dead, “light as a feather, stiff as a board,” girls with tattoos and boys in eyeliner.
Jordan is best known as the author of the PsyCop series, an unfolding tale of paranormal mystery and suspense starring Victor Bayne, a gay medium who’s plagued by ghostly visitations. Also check out her new series, Mnevermind, where memories are made…one client at a time.
Find out more at http://www.jordancastilloprice.com