Review: 23 Hours by David Wellington

Review written by Jess Peacock

Author David Wellington has managed to craft what few people have even attempted over the last decade: an exciting and fresh literary vampire series that is neither romantic nor youth driven. With nary a sparkle in sight, Wellington’s vampires are bloodthirsty and brilliant, the new apex predator on the planet. As grotesque in their appearance as they are in their ethics, these nearly invulnerable monsters don’t want to so much suck your blood as rip your head off and gulp down what gushes forth.

From 13 Bullets, the first novel in the series, through 99 Coffins and Vampire Zero, Wellington has thrust his lesbian-cop-heroine Laura Caxton into a ferocious and sadistic milieu of politics, personal sacrifice, justice, and the supernatural. In the latest entry, 23 Hours, Caxton is forced to sacrifice everything, including her freedom, as a consequence of her violent campaign against the vampires.

Buried deep within Pennsylvania’s Marcy State Correctional Institution, Caxton not only has to contend with other prisoners who would covet the opportunity to kill a former cop, she must also survive Justina Malvern, the world’s oldest and most cunning vampire. Equally enraged and fascinated by her long-term adversary, Malvern overruns the correctional facility, giving Caxton twenty-three hours to either become a vampire or die.

Aside from the action and intensity that Wellington brings to the table, what sets this series apart, particularly in this most recent outing, is the level of realism within which the horror manifests itself. Caxton’s incarceration feels genuine, conveyed with a lean prose that paints a grim and gritty veracity. Personally, this is as close to prison (or Wellington’s vampires for that matter) that one would like to get without a visitor’s badge and some heavily armed guards. However, for the sake of an excellent read, the author’s authenticity sets the stage for one of the better vampire novels in quite some time.

While not a fan of the author’s zombie trilogy (Monster Island, Monster Nation, Monster Planet), Wellington has succeeded at carving out a solid genre niche for himself with the Laura Caxton series, while joining a small list of horror writers breathing new life into the vampire mythos. With Frostbite, Wellington’s current take on the werewolf legend, one only hopes for equivalent success.