Bess’ Book Recs: Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

I don’t entirely know how this series came into my attention, but I’m glad it did.

Dr. Greta Helsing, of the Van Helsings, is a Monster Doctor. Using very real-sounding medical terms, technologies, and procedures, she sticks new bones in mummies that have lost them, treats COPD in demons, and stab wounds in vampires.

That last one, it must be admitted, is new.

I adore the world that’s built in these books. How much? “Stayed up until 4am to finish the second one” much. (There were some regrets the next day when I had to get up early to medicate the foster kitten.)

Admittedly, I was hoping this would be a monster-of-the-week style series where Greta solves a new mystery each book and introduces us to new monsters every time, but once I got over that disappointment, I was able to appreciate the trilogy for what it is. (Namely, very well-written.)

The hands-down, no-arguments best part of the series is Greta. The protagonist. She’s such a doctor. Platonic ideal. She doesn’t do harm, even when 100% of the readership would be 100% fine with, oh, leaving the guy trying to kill you to die, or not coaching the new monster holding you hostage through the trickier bits of their new life. It’s really refreshing after all the cop shows on TV I’ve been watching where the code of ethics is more…flexible. She doesn’t just stay neutral, she actively works to improve people’s situations because That’s Who She Is.

Three books was not enough time to spend with the incredible side characters. I want to know more about Ruthven and Fass and Nadezhda and the ghouls and everyone. Also Grisaille and his old friendship with VICTOR!?!?!? (Okay, maybe I’m not entirely over it not being a monster-of-the-week series.)

There’s just so much there. And it’s not gory or spooky, it’s more adventure-mystery than horror.

Oh yeah. Also, everyone except the protag? V. gay. Lots of happy, healthy queer relationships as far as the eye can see, and no one dies.

The things I didn’t like so much:

  1. The protag’s romantic relationship. I find her boyfriend-of-choice completely insufferable (it’s he got dragged out of an ancient gothic novel, and I have no patience for gothic romantic leads) and the relationship entirely unnecessary.
  2. You know how people hate when the solution is deus ex machina? Well it turns out I hate when the solution is just deus. (Also, why was X the solution? When [redacted] happened and [redacted] were [redacted-ing], how were the [redacteds] of all of humanity not good enough, but [redacted’s] was?)
  3. The overarching plot is very well written and seeded throughout all the books, but I get grumpy when Christian mythos is the Ultimate Design in a book or series. They introduced gods from another mythos, so why is this one the be-all end all?

However, not everyone has my hang-ups and considering how much I enjoyed these books, if those things don’t bother you, you’ll love them.

All in all, still a big fan and I’m looking forward to seeing what else Vivian Shaw does!

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