Published 2011 338 pages
Summary (from the publisher)
Vampire and thief Raylene Pendle doesn’t need more complications in her life. Her Seattle home is already overrun by a band of misfits, including Ian Scott, a blind vampire, and Adrian deJesus, an ex-Navy SEAL/drag queen. But Raylene still can’t resist an old pal’s request: seek out and steal a bizarre set of artifacts. Also on the hunt is a brilliant but certifiably crazy sorceress determined to stomp anyone who gets in her way. But Raylene’s biggest problem is that Ian, after the death of his vaunted patriarch, has become the next target of some blood sucking sociopaths.
Now Raylene must snatch up the potent relics, solve a murder, and keep Ian safe – all while fending for that psychotic sorceress. But at least she won’t be alone. A girl could do a lot worse for a partner than an ass-kicking drag queen – right?
Hellbent is the second book in the Cheshire Red Reports series by Cherie Priest. “Cheshire Red” is another name, the professional alias if you like, of Raylene Pendle, vampire and high-end thief. While clearly part of the urban fantasy genre these books read more like mysteries in which the investigator just happens to be a vampire. The first book, Bloodshot, got the series off to a great start and established Raylene Pendle on my list of all time favourite female vampire characters. Hellbent has solidified that position for Raylene and added the Cheshire Red Reports books to my automatic must-buy list.
While Hellbent is the squeal to Bloodshot the author has done a great job of recapping the essential facts from that story – so this is one serial offering that I actually think you could read as a stand-alone story and not be too lost… Although it’s worth pointing out that Bloodshot is an incredibly good read and one that any self-respecting vampire fantasy would enjoy – so it’s well worth checking out that book first.
This time round Raylene is tasked with the seemingly simple task of stealing a box of old bones from the house of a “Corn-fed redneck of the large and slow variety”. Turns out the bones are from a variety of supernatural creatures and they’re not just bones but bacula (a fancy name for penis bones and the cue for a plethora of dick jokes) prized for their magical properties and ability to super-charge ritual magic. Throw in one schizophrenic witch who needs the bones to power her grand (and completely insane) magic project and naturally, this heist is in no way as easy as it sounds…
Hellbent’s plotline is multi-faceted so there is more going on here than just a magical relic snatch but it would spoil to the story to go into too much detail. Suffice to say that there is no shortage of fast-paced action during the course of Raylene’s investigations, along with some witty dialogue and a lively internal monologue from Raylene that serves to develop her character into something far richer than just a vampire thief/investigator. Raylene has a wonderful lack of the moral nobility that most UF authors give to their heroic vampire characters. She’s not out to save innocents from evil monsters, she’s not particularly worried about saving the planet, or helping humanity in general – her priorities are protecting her new-found friends (who in their own ways are all just as odd as the weirdly obsessive Raylene) and making money. In that order. The rest of the world really doesn’t matter to her at all.
Populated with quirky characters (of which Raylene is the Queen of Quirk) pursuing a plot that has no shortage of unexpected turns, Hellbent makes a refreshing change from the usual UF offerings. It’s fabulously original, well crafted and highly recommended!
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