Hello humans! I have always been, and I suspect always will be, tempted by the three for two offer. I’m not sure what it is, a buy one get one half price doesn’t do it for me, but the idea of three books is just wild. Today’s book Strange Practice was the third book I purchased in a three for two a while ago. I read somewhere that the third book is usually the one the reader isn’t certain of but will give a go because it’s free. This was definitely the case with Strange Practice. I’d been eyeing it up for a while but wasn’t sure if I should buy it as I hadn’t heard anything about it. So, if you’re ever similarly on the fence, here are my thoughts on Strange Practice.
Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.
Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the 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 been groomed for since childhood.
Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.
This book started off by totally surprising me, it’s modern day. Something about the cover and the blurb just made me assume this would be kind of Victorian but no, it’s modern day. I think this makes this book even more wonderful because I always enjoy the juxtaposition of old-time characters with modern day elements. There’s a wonderful moment which talks about replacing bones in mummies and how much easier it would be if Greta had a 3D printer. It’s a wonderful exploration of how the undead and modern technology might interact. But the book does lean into a slightly vintage feel, the technology and the setting may be modern, but the characters (including Greta herself) exist somewhat timelessly within the story. To pull off, for example, a vampire who has existed in multiple periods and who is au fait with modern life but remembers all that has come before is no mean feat and Vivian Shaw crafts his voice perfectly.
Books that ‘humanise’ the undead are nothing new, we all remember the ‘vampires but they are really nice’ trend of the mid 200s, then spanning into all other facets of the paranormal. What I thought this book did well is to ‘flesh out’ these characters even further. It isn’t just ‘they don’t kill people so we can like them’ but it’s ‘they are accountants’, ‘they have day to day medical problems’ and, at least in the case of ghouls ‘they have babies’. It’s bringing these entities to life in a whole different way and it makes for an extremely entertaining read.
The way this book brings together characters and develops the relationships between them was one of my favourite things. I think I would gladly read a novella where the group that ends up forming in this book eat lunch. The dialogue between them is easy, it’s amusing and it feels very natural. The bonds between them develop very organically as the story progresses and as a reader, you never have to fill in the gaps as to how they feel about one another. I was left with a deep desire to find out more about them and to read more of their escapades as a group – which I hope will be what Dreadful Company, the sequel, will be about.
One thing I will mention is that this book tackles religious extremism, specifically Christian extremism. If you are uncomfortable reading about violence, particularly with a religious angle on it then you may not enjoy some aspects of this book.
I don’t think the cover and blurb do this book justice, it’s an incredibly fun read, there’s mystery and violence yes but it’s also a quirky look at how the undead might function in today’s society.
My rating:4/5 stars
All opinions are my own.
What say you? Have you read Strange Practice? Let me know in the comments below!