By David Wellington
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
Vampires these days either seem to be Hot Topic rejects or shoe gazing pathetic glittering emo kids. Occasionally, there have been vampires with more, well more teeth. David Wellington attempts to pull vampires out of the doldrums with his book 13 Bullets. The book originally came out in 2007 but has recently found its way to the Audible audio book service so I gave it a listen.
When a simple traffic stop goes awry, horribly awry, Pennsylvania State Trooper Caxton calls the FBI for help. Help arrives in the form of grizzled Special Deputy Arkeley. Arkely is the only living member of the FBI who has killed a vampire. In this version of our world vampires are a known entity that were made extinct in the 80’s by the FBI. It turns out that the truth is that one vampire; an ancient female has been kept alive in an asylum. There’s no proof that she broke any laws so she can’t be executed so she is kept under lock and key like someone with a deadly disease. Arkeley is called in because the Trooper’s traffic stop reveals that there is another vampire out in the world and there’s no one left living with any experience dealing with the monsters.
This book is part vampire story and part police procedural. Not being a real fan of either it shocked me just how much I liked this book. These aren’t flowery vampires. They’re brutal and deadly blood addicted monsters that come off truly scary in this book. The story breezes by at such a fast pace that the procedural elements never bog the story down in story breaking minutia. Caxton and Arkeley start off as predictable cop types but as the story progresses they both get just enough back story and development that they become less predictable and more layered.
This story is obviously set in a fantastical world with even more fantasy than the obvious vampires but it always stays grounded with imperfect characters often making mistakes and having to deal with the repercussions of those mistakes. The book is a quick listen running at just under 12 hours but it only feels like 3 or 4 hours. It’s scary, it’s funny, and action packed. It’s not perfect; there are a few logic drops that don’t quite work but they hardly matter in the scheme of the whole story. These vampires are more akin to 30 Days of Night than Twilight and that’s a good thing. They are smarter and much more conniving than the animals that are in 30 Days of Night though. Wellington also takes a really gutsy risk with the end of this story that’s likely to divide people into love it or hate it camps. I happen to really like it.
The novel is narrated by Bernadette Dunne who also narrates the sequel to this book. At first I wasn’t a fan of her reading style as she has a gruff and whispering tone to her voice. As the story progresses though her voice works well for both male and female characters and she does a really great job of building suspense in her reading of the book. She’s articulate, she never mumbles her way through any of the text, and the variety of tonal changes she uses for the various characters makes them easy to recognize as she comes back to them after they are first revealed.
This is a highly entertaining and fast paced take on vampires that utilizes some of the tropes of vampire mythology as well as veers in its own direction to keep us on our toes as we blow through the book. This is a book for both vampire fans and non-vampire fans alike.
Overall (Not an average) 8/10
The Story 8/10
The Audio 8/10
Overall (Not an average) 8/10