cover image Dreadful Company

Dreadful Company

Vivian Shaw. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-316-43463-8

Shaw’s second novel featuring Dr. Greta Helsing, doctor to the London undead (after Strange Practice), is a playfully witty confection spun from the setting of The Phantom of the Opera, sardonic yet a touch sweet, in which the elegant vampires of Helsing’s social set come up against an undisciplined coven of sparkly, eyeliner-loving youngsters. Greta, accompanied by her sophisticated friend Edmund Ruthven, arrives in Paris to give a last-minute talk at a supernatural medical conference, but unexpectedly encounters cute but misplaced baby monsters in her hotel room and an unsettling velvet-clad gentleman at the opera. Meanwhile, a pair of psychopomps investigates an influx of partial ghosts to the area around the former Cimitière des Innocents that could be a symptom of the universe unraveling. Readers will find Shaw a pleasing tour guide through the salons and catacombs. She moves smoothly between the ongoing stories of her returning characters and the immediate plot, and between pop culture references and innovation, framing London’s supernatural residents as delightfully normative while still capably evoking the frisson of the uncanny when desired. This series is a fine example of how much (un)life remains in the historical urban fantasy genre. (Aug.)