London is in a state of unrest, our medical practitioners are overworked, and the world seems to grow more grim by the day. If this all naturally culminates in a society of underworld figures hiding at the fringes of mundane life, dabbling in dark magic and advanced science, Vivian Shaw’s Strange Practice called it first!
As October is mere hours away, anything less to kick off the month with than tales of vampires at bus stops and mummies with podiatry problems would be an opportunity squandered. Strange Practice is a fantasy novel of the magical-realism kind, weaving the world as we know it with folklore and urban legends of the preternatural. For the book’s protagonist, Dr. Greta Helsing (delectably and indulgently descended from the original monster hunter), her patients’ records are anything but imaginary. As an esteemed doctor running on esteemed-doctor-hours and consequently always close to falling asleep in her coffee, Greta runs the family business; a Harley Street clinic for the undead.
When a series of strangely targeted attacks begin to threaten her patients, Greta finds herself in the crossfire of ancient forces. A patchwork team band together, including a ghoul, a witch, a demon and a vampire, which leaves Greta occupying the uniquely vulnerable place of being a mortal tasked with maintaining others’ immortality…
The book is an effortless read, and the best feature – in my opinion – is the escapism it offers. By tipping its hat to recognisable aspects of the life and London we know, a reader can be danced through the plot both aware of and enjoying the unbridled fantasy. As the characters dart about the peripheries of everyday life, you can relish the ride of a story with high stakes that constricts itself thrillingly, excitedly and hilariously like a teenager sneaking out of, and back into, their bedroom at night.
If you like charismatic undead, the question “is this crackling energy romantic tension or tangible fear of imminent attack?” or simply a good story; check out Strange Practice. Greta will see you now.
“Greta” illustration and words by Esmeralda Voegele-Downing