Thursday, September 4, 2008

Review: A Chill in the Blood (Vampire Files #7)

“…In the city of sin, the gangs still rule – and they’re on the brink of an all-out war. Neither crooks nor cops care how much blood, innocent or otherwise, flows during the fight. But Jack does.

…Jack has to stop the battle before it starts. But how much of his remaining humanity will he have to give up to do it?”

A Chill in the Blood, the seventh book in the Vampire Files series, begins with three important characters: Jack Fleming, Charles Escott and Shoe Coldfield. It is February 1937 in gangland Chicago. Six months have passed (for fans who have read the previous novels). Jack is a vampire. How did he become one? There is just too much to explain. His friend, Charles, is a private agent who helps and rescues Jack whenever he’s in trouble, although Jack has to rescue Charles at times. Shoe, longtime friend of Charles dating back into the 1920s, is a gang lord in Chicago’s Bronze Belt. He helps Jack and Charles escape another mobster’s plan to kill both of them. Both men are brutally bruised after a crazy night of mayhem and blood.

The story begins as they are racing against time during the wee hours of the morning to find answers and seek refuge. Most importantly, they are trying to get away from the mobsters and their “friends” (police) as quickly as possible. Coldfield takes them to a place where they stay and clean themselves up. Jack has better ideas than staying around in the Bronze Belt, Chicago’s African-American neighborhood -- to get some fresh blood. After he stops by Charles’ office, he runs into more goons. As a vampire, he knocks out one by one. Jack asks himself: do they belong to the now-dead Vaughn Kyler or resurrecting Paco gang?

Surprisingly, Gordy and his girlfriend, Bobbi, a nightclub singer, arrive at the scene. He used to work for Slick Morelli in the first novel, Bloodlist. He helps Jack load the unconscious mugs into his car, and they hurry to the Bronze Belt. There, Fleming meets Escott about more plans to meet Angela Paco. He uses the “L” train to travel to another part of town. Inside the clubhouse, he spots some of Paco’s mugs, warning him that he is in the right place. He sees Angela Paco, beautiful, young and cold-blooded like her father. She cannot believe he is alive. Jack unexpectedly finds Opal and uses her to his advantage to contact Angela personally. He strategically Angela that he will work for her. This man who has been the target of execution now wants to work for the Paco gang??

A new crime boss from New York is in town and scares Angela significantly – Sean Sullivan. As a woman, she cannot become sole crime boss of her father’s territory. This man is very clever – he has the search for Opal, the late Kyler’s bookkeeper, because she has the accounting books and knows something more than either gang has the slightest idea--something worth a fortune in the Paco mansion. Jack has to tag along if he wants to keep everyone around him alive. Unexpectedly, a car rushes to the group as they march to the car and fires on them. One man was shot dead and Opal suffers a bullet in her collarbone. Jack, in an enraged and anxious state, tries to convince the mugs to rush her for critical help. This is one hell of a night that he will never forget—one that makes this novel so critically renowned and magnificent.

Unfortunately, Jack Fleming discovers he won’t make it out of this situation in one night. Sean Sullivan is too educated and clever to fall for fool’s tricks, and Angela Paco is too sharp to risk losing everything she has, including her ill father, Frank Paco. Escott persuades him that he knows a celebrity in town who has access to the press and law, ultimately ending the gangs’ businesses in Chicago. Jack needs to prevent a gang war from exploding between the New York and Chicago gangs, not to mention the innocent bystanders (some very close to Jack) caught between the lines. Can he really do it without losing his sanity? We learned from the previous novel that although is a vampire, Jack isn’t totally invincible when it comes to constant stress and blood loss. Only you can find out by reading A Chill in the Night.

Chill in the Blood is actually another sequel to the fifth (Fire in the Blood) and sixth books, (Blood on the Water) in the Vampire Files series. However, P.N. Elrod knew that many prospective readers may have not read the first six books, so this book is excellent in laying out the fine points and summarizing each character’s background. I could have just read this book, without going through the first six books, to understand the story, but it’s more adventurous to read everything in chronological order.

I like how Elrod incorporates certain parts of Chicago, like the Bronze Belt, “L” train, Chicago Fire, etc. in his stories. Not only are you learning that such places exist in reality, but they give a historical reference to what Chicago was like in the 1920s and 1930s. The Bronze Belt was a city section predominately African-American. Given how segregated Chicago is today geographically (Northside vs. Southside), Fleming acknowledges that a white face does not belong in a predominately black neighborhood. The “L” train is obviously the elevated train system that navigates throughout the city as mass (rapid) transit. The great Chicago Fire of 1871 is said to have started when a farmer O’Leary’s cow kicked a lantern accidentally, and the flames flourished burning the entire city to the ground. Just reading such information in a fictional novel can also be educational for someone not familiar with the history or geography of Chicago.

She also includes historical events like the pre-WWII Hitler and the Great Depression after the stock market crash in the late 1920s. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, like the WPA (Works Progress Administration), which allowed unemployed people to work under the government to improve public utilities and local artists to create artwork for public facilities. This kept everyone employed and earning some money on the side. Elrod includes pop culture icons in the text, while I don’t know many of them, I can surmise that they were prevalent and significant in those decades.

We also learn more information about the characters’ backgrounds, particularly Angela Paco and Shoe Coldfield. This book is just hilarious. So hilarious that I laugh on every page. I have never seen Jack act so perky to a group of mobsters. If you thought Jack was invincible, he almost faces ANOTHER death: cyanide in his blood stream. It causes paralysis. Just reading this section made me want to cry out for him!! There are so many suspenseful twists that in the end they finally come together with a breath-taking “wow!” as this book is brilliant. This is the perfect Hollywood blockbuster theater movie, if it ever makes that level. Beware—there is a lot of blood and guns in this book!

This book is non-numeral, which is a surprise, which I feel Elrod is saying, “anyone can read this book, beginner or fan.” I guess this book will have a beginning and an end to complete the book. After reading the sixth book in the series, the ending left me hanging like I have just abruptly stopped at a yield sign. Not a good feeling, if you know what I mean. This book is unusually longer (327 pages) versus her older editions (around 200 pages.) A new reader can understand the entire series with all the characters in place (if you want to know how a person died, however, you may have to read a specific book prior to A Chill in the Blood) without having to read the previous six books.

On the meantime, I was reading an official website of P.N. Elrod about the possibilities of a Vampire Files movie/TV series. Chances are, they won’t be one for a while unless someone from Hollywood wants to see a script. Just pray!! There is a partial script of Blood List (Book One) in progress! It’s sad that this series has existed since 1990! There should be a movie by now, hopefully and soon. This should be a cult classic. To learn more about the previous books in the Vampire Files, please check my account for reviews.

NOTE: I already know I am out of sequence. I will post books five (Fire in the Blood) and six (Blood on the Water) of the series before I post book seven, The Dark Sleep.

Stay tuned for my next review on the eighth (non-numerical) installment in the Vampire File Series, The Dark Sleep

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