DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

The Fixer
John F. Merz
Pinnacle Books/ $5.99/ 349 pages
ISBN: 0786015004 (May 2002)

Cover Lawson is a Fixer -- a sort of vampire samurai /hit man who takes out rogue vampires who threaten the Balance between humans and vampires. He must kill Cosgrove, a psychopathic megalomaniac vampire who wantonly kills and drains humans of their blood. Such obvious methods are dangerous to a race who secretly coexist with humans.

In THE FIXER's world vampires evolved parallel to humans. They must have human blood to survive and its ingestion gives them heightened senses and abilities, great endurance, and long lives -- but they are not immortal and slowly age. The homogenous vampire society is part of human society, yet separate ("You could liken us to Orthodox Jews. Together but separate."). Vampires shave, can have plastic surgery, sleep a lot, prefer the night but can tolerate the sun. The only outward sign that distinguishes a vampire from a human is a skin-discoloration that can not be erased at the base of the clavicle. They eat food (including garlic), drink alcohol, and there is such a thing as an alcoholic vampire. Vampires can be killed with a wooden stake (bullets with wooden tips will do) and decapitation. New vampires are born to vampire couples (humans can metamorphosize into vampires but it is an extremely rare and complicated procedure) but interbreeding with humans results in less than desirable outcomes. They have a spiritual system (various religions and their symbols have no effect against vampires). A Council oversees the strict rules of their society and the ultimate taboo is to fall in love a human. Sex is okay, but love is forbidden.

Yes, yet another interpretation of the vampire myth, this time with a macho approach that combines action, detective, thriller, espionage, and vampire genres in a page-turner of a novel. Merz maintains the fast-paced action with a polished tough (but not too tough) good-guy detective style and his Boston setting is very well down. He also adds the spice: Lawson meets up with Talya -- an exotic human beauty and KGB-trained professional assassin -- who has reason to kill Cosgrove herself. Is she to be trusted? In fact, who can be trusted other than Zero, Lawson's long-time friend and ex-partner? Cosgrove isn't just a psycho, he's heading a vast conspiracy that could bring down vampire and human alike.

THE FIXER makes no pretense of being the Great American Novel. But other than a few quibbles (we'll get to them), it's an enjoyable read. True, it's not exactly new material. There are vampire-detectives [Lee Killough's Garreth Mikaelian, PN Elrod's Jack Fleming, Nick (The Forever Knight) Knight...]; enforcer /slayers/hunters of vampire, half-vampire, human, or other blood (Sonya Blue, Blade, Buffy, Anita Blake, some of Susan Sizemore's laws of the Blood characters, Harry Keogh the Necroscope...); and vampire-human detective or hunter combos (Tanya Huff's Victory Nelson, Sookie Stackhouse...) enough to fill a bookstore. We also have Christopher Golden's trilogy, the Shadow Saga in which Peter Octavian a vampire who, with his band of renegade vampires, tries to keep the vampire world in balance. The Shadow coven protects humans from bad vampires. Like the Fixer, they use modern weapons and martial arts. Merz's tone, however, is fresh and he's left a lot of room for the series to develop.

Quibbles? I don't get the "Thou shalt not love humans" taboo. This is the worst thing a vampire can do. It can be a capital offense. Although it's never spelled out, my guess is that it somehow upsets the Balance. But it still doesn't make sense to me.

And once the really supernatural stuff kicks in -- involving raising the Sargoth, a bad god from ancient legends -- it's sort of silly. Even the weird needs to ring true. The fight is great, but the hoodoo just doesn't have it.

VERDICT: It's a shame Ace didn't take this series up and play it up for their already-established followings for Hamilton, Harris, Elrod, and Sizemore (and before them, Golden.) Lawson might appeal to those mostly-female readers as well as their male friends and husbands. At the same time, I can understand Ace not wanting to take on another vampire series. But Pinnacle has already done a great disservice with a Really Bad Cover. Now that I've read the novel, I realize it's even more of a shame that people may avoid THE FIXER based on its hideous cover. -- Paula Guran (Orginally appeared in DarkEcho #12)

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.