I think by now it’s no mystery that I absolutely hate the sparkly, depressed, goth-like vampires of the TWILIGHT series. No mystery right? Well in general vampires have never really been my thing. I love the original FRIGHT NIGHT, NEAR DARK, Carpenter’s VAMPIRES, and maybe a handful of other vampire flicks, and absolutely love Brian Lumley’s vampire series NECROSCOPE. But this contemporary view of the vampire is lame, limp, and lethargic. So when I got ANGEL OF VENGEANCE in the mail from publisher Titan Books to review I was honestly less than excited. And then after reading the description which tells me this was the inspiration for the TV show MOONLIGHT I was prepared for another romantic and boring vampire tale. Boy was I wrong, and let me just say shame on you CBS for taking such a great character and turning him into a huge pussy on TV!!
The lead character in ANGEL OF VENGEANCE is Mick Angel. He’s a vampire living his undead life as a private detective in Los Angeles, trying to keep a low profile and who lives by his own set of rules he created. Angel only feeds on the lowest scumbags in society; only on those who prey on others: “No women. No children. No innocents. Those are the rules.” He lives by these rules because without them he feels he’ll be no better than an animal. “It’s how I live with myself … It’s how I deal with what I’ve become.” Angel is a fantastic character. The novel takes place “today” and Angel was turned back in the mid-1940’s. So Angel has this Phillip Marlowe-like thing going on and author Trevor O. Munson is essentially writing a crime thriller in the noir tradition. Angel is a fast talking, heavy smoking, heavy drinking old-school guy who stills calls women “dames” and is still a suck for a girl with curves.
The plot here is about a sexy, red head stripper, Reesa Van Cleef, who hires Angel to find her 14 year old sister Raya. The plot contains more twists and curves than Reesa, and Munson does a great job developing all the characters while keeping the reader captivated with the story. We also get Angel’s backstory of who he was before he became a vampire and what he was like when he was first turned. Angel was part of a jazz group and a heroine junkie. Even now he prefers to shoot up the blood of his victims than to drink straight from the source. As we watch Angel unravel this mystery of what happened to Raya, Munson expertly weaves in the story of Angel’s past and everything comes together in the final pages. In a word, no one can ever escape their past. I’ll leave it at that.
But what I really loved the most about ANGEL OF VENGEANCE is that Munson wasn’t afraid to actually create a vampire here. Munson’s vampires are violent creatures who for the most part follow their baser instincts to kill and feed their blood lust. But Angel wants to be more and not simply let the animal in him control what he is and does. He lets the animal in him govern who he was when he was a junkie and he never wants to be that way again. But this isn’t to say that Angel avoids all conflict … far from it. When he needs to feed he goes after the scum of society; those people who prey on others, and Munson doesn’t shy away from giving us the bloody details.
Munson’s vampires are also a nice blend of traditional lore (sunlight kills them) as well as giving some new spin on this classic creature. Munson goes into various traits of vampires and explains how and why they are like that. For example he explains, through Angel, that a vampire’s seemingly supernatural strength actually comes from the fact their
“dead, bloodless limbs simply cannot experience the same sensitivity to pressure. The result is … full-body numbness. On the bright side, less nerve endings mean a much higher pain threshold. Where living flesh would give up under the influence of severe pain, dead flesh won’t. The less pain you feel, the more you are capable of enduring. The more you can endure, the stronger you are.”
We also get some in-depth explanations about what it feels like to become a vampire. Good stuff.
I can’t go much more into the plot without giving away too much. The keen reader will figure out what’s going on before the big reveal, but even if you don’t figure it out you’re gonna love the twist at the end. ANGEL OF VENGEANCE was a really nice surprise. Munson brings vampires back to their proper place as violent and murderous creatures and that, in my opinion, is what the vampire canon needs!! If you watched the shitty TV show this was based on, MOONLIGHT, which turned the character of Angel into a romanticized, non-violent, Lilith Fair-attending wuss, then you definitely need to treat yourself to the real character. You’ll thank me. Check this one out.
Author: Trevor O. Munson
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer