Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsDreadful Company by Vivian Shaw science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsDreadful Company by Vivian Shaw

Dreadful Company (2018) is the second book in Vivian Shaw’s warm-hearted DR GRETA HELSING series. It follows Strange Practice which, for best results, I’d recommend reading first. The stories are self-contained, but the characters’ relationships with each other evolve a bit throughout the series.

Greta has been asked to present a paper at a medical conference in Paris. She travels to the City of Lights with her vampire friend Lord Ruthven and, on one of the evenings, they plan to attend the opera. As they get ready, Greta notices a little monster in her sink at the hotel and knows that this type must be summoned, meaning that there is a practitioner in Paris.

While at the opera, she encounters a man who seems intensely interested in Greta and Ruthven. It soon becomes clear that there is a coven of very nasty vampires hanging out in the catacombs underneath the streets of Paris and they’ve got a beef with Ruthven. Greta and her friends, along with some new acquaintances, need to get rid of them before they drain or turn all the inhabitants of Paris.

The Paris setting is nice, and Shaw uses it well, tying in several allusions to classic French literature. However, the catacombs were too reminiscent of the underground scenes in Strange Practice.

Dreadful Company adds a few pleasant new characters to Greta’s circle of friends. St Germain, a slightly distracted werewolf, is the mayor of Paris. Gervase Brightside and Crepusculus Dammerung are psychopomps who banish ghosts by helping dead souls cross over to the afterlife. They are in Paris to investigate the report of several recent hauntings. At one point they visit a demon who was supposed to be watching seismographs but missed something important when he was baking pastries instead. He was my favorite character. The monsters Greta encounters are also kind of cute.

The plot of Dreadful Company is more entertaining than the plot of the previous book, Strange Practice, but I wouldn’t call it riveting. This story has more humor, too, though it doesn’t always work for me. I thought the bad vampires, who dress, act, and furnish their lairs in the most cliched vampire manner possible were slightly amusing.

Greta is still not very well-developed — she is a good person and a true friend, but doesn’t seem to have much personality beyond her profession. Or maybe she’s just boring. A romance is developing, though, so I hope she will get more interesting in the next book, Grave Importance.

I’m still listening to Hachette Audio’s audiobook editions of the DR HELSING series because they’ve sent me review copies. I love Susanna Hampton’s voice but not her flat delivery. As I mentioned in my review of Strange Practice, though, she may have interpreted the book accurately and it may be that I am just not appreciating it. Potential readers should try the audiobook sample before purchasing this format.

Published in 2018. Contemporary fantasy in the world of Strange Practice, starring Dr. Greta Helsing, whose family has been keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well for generations. When Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, is unexpectedly called to Paris to present at a medical conference, she expects nothing more exciting than professional discourse on zombie reconstructive surgery and skin disease in bogeymen — and hopefully at least one uneventful night at the Opera. Unfortunately for Greta, Paris happens to be infested with a coven of vampires — and not the civilized kind. If she hopes to survive, Greta must navigate the darkest corners of the City of Lights, the maze of ancient catacombs and mine-tunnels underneath the streets, where there is more to find than simply dead men’s bones.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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