Anno Dracula – Dracula Cha Cha Cha, by Kim Newman

Second paragraph of third chapter of Dracula Cha Cha Cha:

‘You saw the assassin?’ Silvestri asked. ‘Il Boia Scarlatto?’

Second paragraph of third chapter of Aquarius:

Before leaving, Timmy asked Kate something she’d heard before.

I had not read any of the previous books in this series, an alternate history in which vampires became visible in society in the late nineteenth century when Count Dracula married Queen Victoria, and history runs more or less along the same course as we know, except with added vampires. The first part of the book is a novel, Dracula Cha Cha Cha, set in Rome in 1959, and the second a novella, Aquarius, set in swinging London in 1968. Both feature vampire detective Kate Reed as a central character, and I suspect that both are pretty dependent on the events of earlier books in the series to the extent that I found it rather hard to get into. There are endnotes for Dracula Cha Cha Cha explaining all the cultural references (and there are a lot of them, including an undead Scottish spy called Hamish Bond). I actually enjoyed Aquarius a bit more, as I felt that Newman was focusing less on details of the setting and a bit more on plot. There are interesting characters in both.

One point that occurred to me: it’s interesting how often alternate histories are actually detective novels. I guess it’s a convenient device to allow the central character to find out more about their own universe and allow us to accompany them on the journey.

Anyway, I think I would have liked this more if I was more into vampire fiction, and if I had read the earlier novels in the series (there is nothing on the cover to indicate that this is not a standalone book). You can get it here.

I thought that this was my top unread book acquired in 2014, but actually it seems a lot further down that scale than I had realised. Be that as it may, the top book on that list as of now is Ginger Star, by Leigh Brackett.