The Sweet Scent Of Blood
by Suzanne McLeodThe Sweet Scent Of Blood is a modern-day fantasy set in an alternative version of London. It's alternative in the sense that the supernatural minorities live openly and have done so for several years before the action begins. Pixies, trolls, brownies, fae, goblins, witches and vampires rub shoulders with ordinary humans, like an all-year-round Halloween with the adults keyed up on sugar as well as the kids.
The story centres around Genny Taylor, a Sidhe fae with cat-like amber eyes and the ability to find and break spells. She works for a kind of magical cleanup agency run by witches. Her work brings her into contact with all sorts of supernatural weirdness, but one thing Spellcrackers.com don't do is deal with vampires. So when a man turns up and asks her to investigate a murder which a vampire is accused of committing, Genny knows she should turn the job down. But where magic is involved, taking the safe option isn't always possible.
This murder mystery brings our heroine into contact with a carnival of characters, who tend to range from extreme to outrageous. A high proportion of them are posers who wear various stereotypical vampire outfits, as though craving blood has an adverse effect on their sartorial instincts. Too many of them look like dark, brooding underwear models.
The traditional connection between vampires and seduction hasn't been forgotten either. As the only Sidhe fae in London, Genny is especially attractive to those of the undead persuasion. She's also courted by a cute satyr called Finn. So the novel crackles and steams along as our heroine faces sensual bombardments from various suitors, as well as the more conventional types of assault from people who don't want her to uncover the truth about the murder.
There's plenty of action in The Sweet Scent Of Blood, and a satisfying slice of mystery to puzzle out. However it's this complexity that's one of the book's weaknesses. The story is crowded with minor characters, some of whom blur into one another because they're quite similar, especially the vampires. Others are simply unsubtle, such as the theme-pub Irish vampire Declan, or the bullish Constable Curly-hair.
On a positive note, the main characters do pop out vividly, so it's hard not to like them. There's also a juicy sub-plot about Genny's secret history. Many of the events seem to be setting things up for the rest of the series, and on the strength of this book the next episodes promise to be a fine red vintage. In all, this this magic-and-fangs romp makes for a quick, captivating read.
Review © Ros Jackson