Flesh and Blood - Daniel Dersch

Claire & Mandy Hagen are sisters living in NYC.They only have each other for family so the elder Claire feels responsible for Mandy's well being. Apparently she's not doing such a great job as Mandy ends up in a psych ward, claiming a vampire is sucking her dry.

Horrified, Claire starts to dig through Mandy's life, looking for clues to her madness. At her sister's apartment she finds a whack of empty Valium bottles & an online contact. This leads her to "John" who agrees to meet her at JFK & tell her his story.

Yes, vamps do exist & he recently ran into one while doing a B & E. Unfortunately, he woke the homeowner. John survived but he'll never forget the floating "man" with the glowing red eyes. He's leaving the country & gives Claire advice & a cross. Neither is aware they are being watched by Bishop, a mercenary who belongs to a shadowy organization with ties to the Vatican.

Dismissing him as a crank, she heads out to visit Mandy, who is now sporting a straightjacket. Seems she's become a tad violent & wastes no time attacking her sister. Claire might be able to accept that as part of her psychosis but Mandy's glowing red eyes kind of freak her out.

Then things get weird(er). Driving home, Claire realizes she's being followed. On the news she hears a man was murdered at JFK. She needs a little quiet time to reflect on the day's events but soon has company. The stranger knows a lot about Claire & the men following her but before he gets too far, Bishop & his crew attack. In short order, the apartment is demolished in a bloody gun fight & the stranger flees, taking Claire. The chase is on.

This is the first in a series featuring journalist Claire Hagen & George Powell, a hybrid vampire (the stranger). Plot lines include saving Mandy from her fate, George's background & the story behind Bishop and the ancient order he works for. Typically, an author uses book #1 to establish the characters & do the world building necessary to introduce the reader to his "reality". Here, he succeeds some of the time.

George is by far the most compelling character. His status as a hybrid has its' roots in Auschwitz & it's an interesting concept. Turns out those darn Nazis were more devious than we knew. Claire starts out as mildly annoying, a weepy young woman with a martyr's complex but these attributes are toned down as the book progresses, thank God. I found Mandy more interesting but we never really get her story despite it being central to the plot. Bishop has a predominant role but comes off as two dimensional, a Rambo-like assassin who spends most of this time plotting his partner's demise & assuring himself he's an alpha male, twirling his metaphorical moustache. There's little about how he came to be the hired gun for a Vatican cardinal or why he's so motivated. 

The world building is spotty at best. We never learn why Mandy was targeted, who her vampire/maker is, the history of the Organization or how vamps in general fit into society. It's ok to leave unanswered questions for a subsequent book but the reader should finish the first one with a basic understanding of the game & all its' players so they feel invested in their fate.

The remainder of the story is largely devoted to Claire & George being hunted by Bishop & Co., leading to the inevitable showdown. There are several scenes where a character finds themselves cornered & facing death, only to have time stop as they or their attacker launch into a lengthy explanation or internal monologue. It kills any tension that may have been building but of course, provides time for escape. I know it seems ironic to talk about believability in a PNR but if an imaginary world is well created, it can at least feel credible.

Peripheral characters are few, mostly members of Bishop's gang. Claire seems to have no friends so her only contact is her boss at the paper as she runs from crisis to crisis. The dialogue is oddly stilted in places but this may be due to blips in translation & have a smoother flow in the original German.

By the end, most of the cast has undergone huge change & although little is resolved, it's the strongest part of the book. So if you enjoyed the ride, no doubt you're looking forward to the next one & the further adventures of the Hagen sisters.