Monsters are People Too! Fun reading that is just good medicine.
In between books that are intense, a bit of lighter fare is a terrific way to keep you happily reading in fantasy, grimdark, and horror. It is easy to see readers will find this series is just the ‘medicine’ they need and remain quite loyal to it. You will get a lot of enjoyment out of these books if you are a bit nostalgic for the old style penny dreadful with a good dusting off. Full of the most classic tropes, slightly twisted, with loads of magic, alchemy and paranormal creatures. All our favorites in a new perspective, that of the monsters themselves.
Orbit Books caught my eye in a newsletter and showed me Strange Practice quite some while ago. With their lovely simplistic covers, the premise immediately got my attention as something unique. This is our new monster mash. Greta Helsing (yes, that Helsing) has stepped into her father’s shoes as doctor to the undead in present day London where the vampires are not sparkly, the mummies have arthritic breakdown, and the elderly ghoul leader is on anti-depressants.
The setting and world building in modern day London, this also means it’s built on top of a very old London. There is quite a lot to find in the dark labyrinth under the streets. The book quickly shaped itself into a life-threatening whodunit with a very unique voice within the lines.
Greta is running one of only three places our ghouls, vampires, and mummies can get medical treatment. She has two trusted, although not human, assistants, who keep things running in her small clinic. Dez, a witch, and Anna, a Russian part-rusulka or merfolk. When Greta gets a call from a vampire named Ruthven to help a vampyre who is dying after an attack by a elusive group of religious zealots, she soon finds herself a target of the mysterious assassins. She is forced to seek refuge and protection with Ruthven and her new vampyre patient, Sir Francis Varney. (Yes, that Varney, the Vampyre of penny dreadful fame.)
The relationships that form in Strange Practice are fascinating. Greta is descended from the former Van Helsing family, which centuries earlier had been monster hunters. In seeking to destroy them, the Van Helsing’s study of the physiology of their foes, and their weaknesses, eventually led to them becoming modern doctors to the paranormal creatures they had previously hunted. Her friend Cranswell, an ordinary human researcher,and her father’s dear friend Fastitocalon,or Fass, who has hints of the Nefilim in his talents, all become embroiled in a deadly face off with a power escaped from hell itself.
The writing is well done, easy to read, mixed with humor, and the emotional hook of the main character’s total devotion to her calling is authentic. This is a series I quickly developed a fondness for. The strangeness of the cast all working together creates a wonderful diversion from the ordinary. Highly recommended for the entertainment value alone. The list below are the installments to date in order of publication date. Click any cover to get your copy.
About the books:
Strange Practice (A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel Book One)
Greta Helsing inherited her 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 she barely makes 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.
Dreadful Company (A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel Book 2):
When Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, is unexpectedly called to Paris to present at a medical conference, she expects nothing more exciting than professional discourse on zombie reconstructive surgery and skin disease in bogeymen — and hopefully at least one uneventful night at the Opera. Unfortunately for Greta, Paris happens to be infested with a coven of vampires — and not the civilized kind. If she hopes to survive, Greta must navigate the darkest corners of the City of Lights, the maze of ancient catacombs and mine-tunnels underneath the streets, where there is more to find than simply dead men’s bones. Oasis Natrun: a private, exclusive, highly secret luxury health spa for mummies, high in the hills above Marseille, equipped with the very latest in therapeutic innovations both magical and medical. To Dr. Greta Helsing, London’s de facto mummy specialist, it sounds like paradise. But when Greta is invited to spend four months there as the interim clinical director, it isn’t long before she finds herself faced with a medical mystery that will take all her diagnostic skill to solve.
Grave Importance (A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel Book 3):
A peculiar complaint is spreading among her mummy patients, one she’s never seen before. With help from her friends and colleagues — including Dr. Faust (yes, that Dr. Faust), a sleepy scribe-god, witches, demons, a British Museum curator, and the inimitable vampyre Sir Francis Varney — Greta must put a stop to this mysterious illness before anybody else crumbles to irreparable dust… …and before the fabric of reality itself can undergo any more structural damage.
Vivian Shaw was born in Kenya and spent her early childhood in England before relocating to the US at the age of seven. She has a BA in art history and an MFA in creative writing, and has worked in academic publishing and development while researching everything from the history of spaceflight to supernatural physiology. In her spare time, she writes popular fanfiction for Star Wars, Marvel, Discworld and more under the name of Coldhope.