Blood Debt is the fifth and last book in the Blood Books series by Tanya Huff featuring Vicki Nelson, Henry Fitzroy and Mike Celluci. We pick up the tale as Henry finds himself haunted by a tormented ghost and realizes he needs Vicki’s help. It’s hard to review Blood Debt completely without spoiling the events at the end of Blood Pact, but I shall attempt it!
Although there is a ghost involved, the mystery itself is more mundane than those in the previous books, concerning an organization set up to profit from the harvesting of organs. Since Huff persists in signposting her villains, making identifying them extremely easy, these books are not whodunits and so Huff has to rely on the antagonists’ supernatural abilities to ramp up the tension. Here, our heroes face only human foes, which means there is less tension and ambiguity over who will win.
Instead, Huff concentrates on the tension in the relationships among the three main characters, who have been involved in a love triangle from the second book in the series. I liked the way Huff dealt with Vicki and Henry in this book; it was both heartbreakingly sad and yet hopeful at the same time.
Mike remains a fabulous character. He is by far my favourite character of the series. I love his nobility and his desire to see justice done — but within the parameters of the law. Henry describes Mike best with this:
Henry had done what he could, but he hadn’t been strong enough to finish; he needed more blood. Michael Celluci had offered his, even though he believed that it meant he’d lose everything.
In over four hundred and fifty years of living as an observer in humanity’s midst, it had been the most amazing thing Henry Fitzroy had ever seen.
Mike is snarky, clever, exasperated. I love the way he deals with Vicki, both in their tender moments and in their arguments. The only thing I wish is that he would get a damn haircut so that Vicki doesn’t need to constantly brush that curl of hair back off his face!
Tony comes to the fore here as well. His desire to extricate himself from Henry and his desperation to do the right thing without hurting others is admirable and written in a realistic way.
I enjoyed the snappy pacing and dialogue-heavy writing. Huff also does a fine job with descriptive passages, bringing places and situations to life with a few efficient words.
I’ll make a brief comment on how dated these books sometimes feel: Tony works in a video store and spends time rewinding the tapes, and one of the characters expresses surprise at the use of a cell phone. Technology aside, though, the Blood Books stand up well to the test of thirteen years’ time. They still sound fresh and engaging. In a genre now crowded, Huff was one of the first to pair detecting with supernatural forces; and, when reading about Vicki and Henry, you can get a sense of how exciting and new the series must have seemed when first released.