Blood Groove, by Alex Bledsoe

bloodgrooveTitle: Blood Groove

Author: Bledsoe, Alex (Author’s Website)

Genre: Horror

Bibliographic: Tor, 304 pages, Paperback List Price $19.99, Audiobook List Price $20.97, Audiobook CD List Price $29.95, ISBNs 9780765321961, 9780765323088, 9780765361615, 9781429956574

Publication Date: April 28, 2009

Rating: ★★★★☆/♥♥♡♡♡ (The rating scale is here).

Appeal Factors: Urban fantasy, flawed characters, creepy, steamy, violent, dialect-filled, gritty

Why I picked it up: It seemed like a good book for Halloween.

S.I.A.S.: Sixty years after his “death,” vampire Rudolfo Zginski wakes up in 1970s-era Memphis, Tennessee.

Summary: In 1915, a Welsh court convicted Baron Rudolfo Zginski of being a vampire, and in the middle of his trial he was staked through the heart with a crucifix. By 1975, his well-preserved body was in the care of a museum in Memphis, Tennessee. When an order is given to analyze his corpse, he finds himself unexpectedly awakened the moment the crucifix is removed. Almost immediately he realizes that the world has changed quite drastically, and so he decides to seek out other vampires to help him adapt to his new society. The vampires he finds, however, aren’t quite as helpful as he’d hoped. He makes the acquaintance of a young lady named Fauvette, who was changed when she was fourteen years old around the time of the Great Depression, and is dismayed to realize that  she doesn’t know anything. She doesn’t know how to change into mist or into a wolf (although she thinks perhaps he can become a bat, an idea that disgusts him). She doesn’t know that it’s possible to drink blood from a human without killing them. Most importantly, she doesn’t know that she can survive in the sunlight. It turns out that she and her friends learned everything they know about vampires from pop culture, and not even good pop culture — they are running on the tropes of movies like Blackula. He decides that, in exchange for her knowledge of the 1970s he will teach her more about her true nature (even if he doesn’t quite trust her friends).

Meanwhile, Medical Examiner Danielle Roseberry is working on an unusual case. She was given the body of a twenty-seven year old man (that doesn’t look a day over fifteen) and instructed to find the cause of death, even though the victim has no injuries and no signs of illness. Danielle is shocked to discover that he’s been completely exsanginated. She concludes that the young man’s death must be drug-related. She decides to pose as a teenager to try to get the details about a new drug, and it turns out there is one on the market. The catch is that it can only affect vampires, and it always leads to their death — but by the time she figures this out, she’s already run afoul of Fauvette’s friends and gotten tangled up in their dramas.

Evaluation:  I really, really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well-written, for the most part, although the character development did leave something to be desired for most of the members of Fauvette’s gang. None of the characters were particularly likeable, with the possible exception of Mark — he seemed to have his and his friends’ best interests in mind, even after Fauvette became smitten with Zginski, and I hope there’s more of him (and that he asserts himself more) in the sequel. The rest of the vampires were awful, but somehow reading the book I didn’t mind (because, after all, they are vampires). The setting is where the book really shines. I was not alive in the 1970s and I’ve never been to Memphis, but I really believed in the city he created.

Like I said, I really enjoyed Blood Groove, but it is certainly not for everyone. The book is chock-full of descriptions of sex and violence that are quite graphic, and there were a few moments during the course of the book where I was glad I have a strong stomach. I would also consider warning people that the book is quite clearly drawing on the blaxploitation films of the 1970s, and so some of the characters fit the conventions of that genre — Leo, in particular, seems to have been written into the book to make the reader think about racial issues, but he’s about a subtle as a blunt ax. Zginski also holds some ideas about the place of black people, women, and “peasants” that may have been acceptable his native 19th-century Russia or his more recent 1915 Wales, but which are jarring to the reader in 2016, and I can see why certain people might prefer not to read it for that reason.

Significance: This is the first book in  the “Memphis Vampires” series, and is frequently recommended for people who like their vampires evil, as sort of an anti-Twilight.

Readalikes: Fevre Dream, by George R.R. MartinThe Vampire Lestat, by Anne RiceHalf-Resurrection Blues, by Daniel Jose Older.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Unlike the Memphis Vampires, Zginski knows that vampires have many special abilities, including the ability to cause storms and the ability to drink from humans without killing them. How do the vampires presented in Blood Groove differ from vampires as you understand them? Are Fauvette’s beliefs about vampires closer to yours?
  2. Why does Leslie kill Skitch? Why doesn’t she try to kill Danielle?
  3. Discuss Fauvette’s realtionship with Zginski. Why is she drawn to him the way she is? Why does he become smitten with her, in return?
  4. Zginski insists that blood that is offered willingly is sweeter than blood that is taken by force, and yet he doesn’t offer his victims any true options. Does Lee Ann ever truly consent to anything in the course of the story? Why does she act the way she does, in the end? Why does she request that she not be resurrected as a vampire?
  5. Discuss Danielle’s fate. Why do the vampires punish her as they do? Does she deserve it?

Lists and Awards: None.

Professional Reviews:  Publishers Weekly.

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