Review: Strange Practice (Dr. Greta Helsing #1) by Vivian Shaw

July 27, 2017 Review 1

Review: Strange Practice (Dr. Greta Helsing #1) by Vivian ShawStrange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Series: Dr. Greta Helsing #1
Published by Orbit on July 25, 2017
Genres: Mystery & Detective, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Supernatural, Urban Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Source: NetGalley
Sexual Content: N/A
Reviewed by: Rebecca
3 Stars

Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family's specialty for generations.

Greta Helsing inherited the family's highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills - vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta's been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.

While I enjoyed STRANGE PRACTICE overall, I couldn’t help feel a little duped. The series carries Greta’s name but she’s one of six POV characters. It was a disappointing realization because Greta was my hook into STRANGE PRACTICE. A descendant of Van Helsing runs a medical practice for the supernatural? Yes please. As a character, Greta Helsing is a great change of pace from the sulky, angry heroine that dominates most urban fantasy books. Greta enjoys her job and genuinely cares for her patients. However, she also the only main female character in the book. And, as a fraction of the POV characters, her importance becomes overshadowed by her supernatural patients.

It was clear that the author had a lot more fun writing the vampire’s POV. Although their character development was still slim, it was easier to connect to Ruthven and Varney. They had quirks and were directly affected by the plot. By the end of the book, I knew only as much about Greta as I learned in her introductory chapter. She’s sweet and she cares, but she’s also incredibly reactive. I don’t want to her challenge people to duels, but her medical practice and skills should have directly influenced the research. Perhaps this is because of her dedication and niceness, since she spends a lot of the novel nursing other characters, but nice doesn’t have to mean passive.

Exposition drove most of the novel. It was kinda great that the characters solve mysteries through research but most of the novel felt like a bottle episode. For various reasons, the main characters spend their time hiding in Ruthven’s mansion. While I loved both Varney and Ruthven, I wasn’t sure why they were separate POV characters. Ruthven is charming and can mingle in human society, Varney is dark and twisty… but that’s about it. With so much lived backstory to these characters there’s an endless possibility for future plots.

I would have liked to seen more the London’s haunts that supernatural’s frequent. Greta has such a wide variety of clients (ghouls, mummies, sirens, witches, vampires), it would have been an easy way to introduce us to the their world. The STRANGE PRACTICE series will continue with other books; there’s a charming romantic set-up between Greta and Varney and the characters have developed a strong bond. It’s so rare to have an optimistic main character and a happy group of friends that I’ll be watching for the sequel. Hopefully in the next novel Greta Helsing will earn that series title and be a more focussed, driving force.

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For other fantasy novels that involved descendant’s for classic literary characters, check out The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss, Shutter (Shutter #1) by Courtney Alameda or Year One: A Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter Collection by John G. Hartness

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