Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Magistrates of Hell

You wait 15 years for a new vampire laced James Asher book and then two come along almost at once with Magistrates of Hell following on neatly from last year's Blood Maidens. Retired spy James Asher sails to China in 1912 to investigate the discovery of a body very like the mutated vampires he encountered in St Petersberg. Accompanied by his wife and Dr Solomon Karlebach, Asher bases his investigation within the cosmopolitan confines of the Legation Quarter in Peking under the blind of a purely academic interest in philology and folklore. Keeping an even lower profile is Asher's ancient Spanish vampire ally Don Simon Ysidro. Usually these books have Ysidro treading on the territorial toes of the local nest of urban vampires but China's vampires are something different. Incredibly ancient and not altogether sane they mostly remain aloof and hard to pin down. With Ysidro hampered by their elusiveness, Asher has to rely more on his human allies, the Van Helsing like vampire hunter Karlebach and the Japanese Samurai Count Mizukami. Asher and the Count actually make quite a dynamic pairing out in the wilds among the swarming rabid rats and equally the double dealings and murder within the city and the Legation. Barbara Hambly dishes up a more b-movie action based script than usual but it remains faithful to the series tone, is well researched and  maintains the levels of threat and anxiety common to Hambly books.  As ever Hambly know how to entertain.

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