Reading the synopsis of Once Bittenby Stephen Leather, I anticipated this to be a crime fiction novel. Jamie Beaverbrook is an English psychologist helping the Police Department in LA. His knowledge and experience has enabled him to create a software program that can help decide if a murderer is sane or insane. The story follows a case where a girl is discovered standing over a body with it’s throat ripped out and blood all over her.
While the crime scene and it’s prime suspect seem to obviously hint that she’s not human, I expected this to be a serious crime book, where Jamie Beaverbrook has to disprove a Vampire theory. While the story was well paced, well written and intense in parts, I was disappointed to discover very early on that it was more of a fantasy book and it seemed a bit of a let down when Terry, the murder suspect, was in fact not-human and there was no twist.
Although I enjoyed Stephen Leather’s writing style and found it to be an entertaining read once I’d accepted that it was a fantasy Vampire story rather than the crime fiction I hoped for, the story and characters were a little unbelievable. Jamie was described as being a little worn and exhausted by his divorce and death of his newborn baby, looking significantly older and worse for wear than he really was. Terry, however, was described as young and beautiful, as well as being immortal, wealthy and with special abilities. While we’re supposed to wonder if Terry’s feelings are genuine or if she has ulterior motives, the whole relationship seems a little far-fetched. Terry seems too willing to spill the details of her lifestyle and her Vampire community to someone employed by the LA Police Department.
The story itself was easy to read and, despite my criticisms, I read continuously from start to finish. The major downside for me, and many others judging by reviews, was the ending. It was so anticlimactic and although it leaves you wondering what might have happened, it seemed a bit of a cop-out by the author. It was an average read – while it had excellent potential, it just didn’t seem well executed.
3 Stars ***