Books : reviews

Vivian Shaw.
Strange Practice.
Orbit. 2017

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 8 July 2018

Meet Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead.

After inheriting a highly specialised – and highly peculiar – medical practice, Dr Helsing spends her days treating London’s undead for a host of ills: vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s dreamed of since childhood.

But when a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing humans and undead alike, Greta must use all her unusual skills to keep her supernatural clients – and the rest of London – safe.

Dr Greta Helsing (the family dropped the “van” some years ago) is dedicated to her patients, like any good doctor. Unlike other doctors, however, her patients are vampires, demons, ghouls, mummies, and other undead of London. Her practice is ticking along, until the day several monks attack Sir Francis Varney with garlic and a strangely shaped, deliberately poisoned knife. As the attacks on her patients increase in ferocity, she teams up with some of her more powerful undead friends to stop the perpetrators before all London is engulfed.

This is an exciting page turner with an interesting heroine: competent, resourceful, but all too human in a world of supernatural creatures who rely on her skills. The underlying mythology has a little overlap with standard vampires, but also branches out into a range of other creatures, all interesting, individual, and sympathetic. The plot twists and turns, leading to a world-shattering climax in the London sewers. I particularly like the way the team behaves sensibly, works together, and doesn’t try to hide information from each other for implausibly slim reasons. This is an interesting cast of characters, and I’m looking forward to Dr Helsing’s next adventure.

Vivian Shaw.
Dreadful Company.
Orbit. 2018

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 12 January 2019

Meet Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead.

When Greta Helsing is called to Paris to present at a medical conference, she expects nothing more exciting than professional discourse on zombie reconstructive surgery.

Unfortunately for Greta, Paris happens to be infested with a coven of vampires – and not the civilised kind. If she hopes to survive, Greta must navigate the maze of ancient catacombs beneath the streets, where there is more to find than simply dead men’s bones.

This is an excellent follow up to the first Greta Helsing tale. Here she is in Paris, called to give a paper at a conference in place of a sick friend, and finding herself the unwitting pawn in a spat between vampires. She prevails by a combination of pluck, hard work, and sheer decency, whilst her supernatural friends, old and new, again work together as an effective team.

It helps that Greta is a literature fan, and knowns rather more about the plot of The Phantom of the Opera than I do…

Vivian Shaw.
Grave Importance.
Orbit. 2019

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 29 October 2019

Meet Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead.

In the hills above Marseille, Oasis Natrun is a highly secret health spa for mummies, equipped with the very latest therapeutic innovations both magical and medical. To Dr Greta Helsing, it sounds like paradise. But when she takes the job of interim clinical director, it isn’t long before she finds herself faced with a medical mystery that will take all her diagnostic skill to solve.

With help from her friends and colleagues – including demons, witches and the inimitable vampyre Sir Francis Varney – Greta must put a stop to this mysterious illness before anybody else crumbles to irreparable dust.

This is the third, and I assume final, outing of Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead. In this volume the theme is mummies, as Greta takes over the directorship of a swanky mummy clinic to cover for a colleague. The facilities are superb, and Greta is revelling in the marvellous resources she has available, but the mummies are suffering from strange inexplicable bouts of weakness. Meanwhile some severe angels curse one of her vampire friends, and vampyre Sir Francis Varney discovers he is in love. Armageddon and epic feats of surgery ensue.

I assume this is the finale, as it would be hard to top the denouement here. It also ties up some of the loose ends from the previous books, bringing everything to a shattering conclusion. This has been a fun trilogy, and I would happily read more about Dr Helsing’s adventures with her undead patients.