Department 19 by Will Hill
My apologies for the wait – I got hit by the lurgy and snuffly bloggers are apparently pants bloggers.
Anyway, I’ve got a diamond for you today – it caused a late night and a dip into the purse for me and I don’t regret it One. Bit.
Publisher: HarperCollins Childrens Books
After his father is shot dead in front of him for being a traitor, Jamie (understandably) becomes one sullen and angry young man. He’s not interested in school, he’s fed up with everything and to top it all off, his mum and he have to keep moving house once word gets out that a traitor’s family lives in the neighbourhood.
This all changes though after a particularly bad argument with his mum when Jamie storms out the house and meets up with a girl. A girl whose eyes are red, and whose teeth can change shape…into points. Jamie charges back home, only to discover a tall, thin vampire in his front room and his mother nowhere to be seen. So begins his association with Department 19, Blacklight and its secret, black-ops mission to rid the world of blood-sucking vampires. But while his dad’s old associate Frankenstein (yes, Frankenstein) and the esteemed descendants of such renowned vampire hunters as Harker, Seward, Morris and Holmwood are more concerned with killing off the newly building vampire threat, Jamie has only one concern – getting his mother back.
The first time I tried this book, I freely admit I put it back down again after a few pages. That was a mistake. Maybe I was just in the wrong mood or something, or clearly not in my right mind, but this books just grabbed me and I couldn’t put it down until some time later. You don’t want to know how rubbish I am on just two hours sleep, which is what I was left with when this book finally released me. It’s astonishing how packed this book is too, when you consider that a large part of it is spent introducing you to Blacklight and all it’s operations and and ringleaders therein, as well as it’s slick ways of busting and dusting vampires. I loved the amount of detail Hill gives us, complete with backstory for how Blacklight was founded; rather than just telling us it was started by Abraham Van Helsing (of the Dracula novel, written by Bram Stoker, who makes an appearance in the book too), we get to go along for the ride as he and his valet Carpenter seek out and neutralise a possible new vampire threat after their travels in Eastern Europe and confrontation with Dracula himself.
The characters were immensely detailed too. There’s a huge sense of lineage in this book, as generation after generation of Van Helsing’s original band of vampire killers pass on their duties to their own sons. This is a gentleman’s department, this Department 19, no matter how swish the training grounds and the T-Bones are (you’ll have to find out, trust me when I say you’ll want one), harkening back to its Victorian roots and the gentleman’s clubs of old.
In short, it’s a rich world that Hill creates and it is so much fun to read. The characters that populate it are interesting too. Although I found Jamie sometimes a little too focused on the one thing to really be finding out much about him, it was still so easy to feel real affection for him. Driven he may be in his quest for his mum (understandably, I think I’d get a bit one-sided in his position) and difficult as it can be to recap what you actually know about him, he’s still a character I would look forward to reading again – he’s vulnerable and, as such, believable, so believable. In fact, once I’d finished this book I was on the Net buying the next one, I was so awed and wanted so desperately to meet Jamie again.
It’s not just the main character though – the secondary characters weave themselves into your memory too. Unusually for me, the secondary characters (McBride!) have resonated as much with me as the main, they’re so well drawn. They had whole little histories and personalities, all written in just a few sentances – now that takes real talent.
As you’d expect, it’s rather gory and the blood goes a bit mad so if you’re not too keen on horror or murder scenes, you might want to consider that before you read. However, if you want a palpably tense read with excellent characters and a rollicking plot, don’t hesitate. Go find.
Stake it here