Book Review

Book Review: Strange Practice

Strange Practice
By Vivian Shaw

My Edition:
Paperback, 357 pages
2017, Orbit
ISBN: 9780316434607

Dr. Greta Helsing has inherited her father’s practice and its paranormal patients. Amidst treating ghouls, mummies, werefolk and other creatures that remain hidden from the average eye, Greta finds herself caught up investigating a string of strange murders after a friend of a vampire friend is attacked.

I had the chance to buddy read this book with Ekho (their blog and Instagram), if you call the two of us finishing it in a span of two and four days, respectively, a buddy read. I’m pleased to be able to bring you our buddy review too!

EKHO: Strange Practice has been in my shelves since I impulse bought it in October. I was finishing up a Gothic Literature unit with Uni and it seemed like the perfect accompaniment to what I was studying. Gothic lit, especially with horror elements has been a favourite genre of mine for a long time. Strange Practice gives us a modern iteration, while being light-hearted.

MILLIE: I first saw this gem somewhere on Instagram. I saw the cover, heard that it was about a doctor who cares for paranormal creatures and purchased it almost immediately.

I had two misconceptions going into this book: I thought it was set in Victorian times and I thought it was middle grade. Okay, the latter is totally because I didn’t read the blurb and was solely judging by the cover art. The girl on the front looks like…well…a young girl! Why did I think a child would be a doctor? I don’t know, guys! I clearly wasn’t thinking.

That I was wrong on both counts was not the least bit disappointing! I absolutely loved this book!

EKHO: It has a medical setting, as the main character Greta Helsing is a doctor for the undead and supernatural of present-day London. Its urban horror aspects make it really accessible and allow the reader to fly along with the fast-paced plot. The descendants of vampire hunters and demonologists have evolved their careers to incorporate working with the supernatural to look after London. Characters from classic Penny Bloods and Gothic Horror feature as main characters rich with compassion for humans and full of depth that we don’t really see in their original stories.

MILLIE: Bringing the paranormal into the modern world can be tricky and come off cheesy if not done just right, but I could tell from the first few pages that Shaw got it just right! I loved how dedicated Greta is to her practice and her patients. One unique touch this story has is how Greta is always viewing the fantastical creatures around her with a doctor’s eye – as readers we get an added layer of detail and perspective. Her passion for her patients and her friends makes her a loveable hero.

The rest of the cast is no less fabulous. There’s a bit of everything here: the ancient vampire with a bad case of ennui and shame who is unsure of his place in the world; the classy, modern vampire who loves shopping and cooking for his human friends, and is ready to fiercely defend his city from the unknown threat; a family friend with a wealth of powers and a chronic case of COPD; and a male sidekick whose smart and dorky and refreshingly avoids the trope of trying to hook up with our heroine.

EKHO: I found it to have Being Human, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibes except our Scooby team was made up of Vampires, Ghouls, and Giles is a young black man working on his first exhibit with the British Museum. I plan on collecting the series as they get published, it was a really enjoyable short read that lasted me 2 steaming hot days in Victoria (the weather was terrible ok, I just binge read my way through 40 degree Celsius days).

MILLIE: The only reason it took me twice as long to finish is because I work longer hours than I’m used to and I had a lot of adulting going on. But the story was compelling and easy to read. I felt the characters were familiar in that they’re relatable like a lot of the characters we know and love from shows like Buffy. It also made me think of Christopher Moore’s series about vampires in San Francisco that starts with Bloodsucking Fiends.

The pace flowed nicely too. There’s action, mystery, a very low key romance (if you can even classify it as that), religious cults, redemption arcs, feels, and an ending that pleased me immensely.

EKHO: Strange Practice was aesthetically pleasing as well, Orbit had done a great job with a gothic cover covered in crosshatching art, and black and white illustrations in the front pages. It had this soft floppy matte cover that made me want to flick it about when I wasn’t reading. You guys know what I mean. Some days you just need a squishy paperback. Better than comfort food, and they survive the damage a backpack can dish out when shoved in.

MILLIE: Yes, that cover! Naturally, it’s the first thing that caught my eye. The first three pages also have adorably macabre illustrations. I would love to have seen them carried throughout, at least on the chapter headers or something. I just checked the artist and it’s Will Staehle (Warren the 13th illustrator), so no wonder I love it! And yes, the squish level of this book is fantastic. I can’t wait for more of Greta and Co! Rest assured, I’ll be buying the second book as soon as it’s available.

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