Just Plain Blood is Chris DeFazio’s second book in his trilogy and sequel to his A History of Blood. The story begins three years after the first. Titus Acilius, a two-thousand year old vampire who has gone by several names, is stuck with his wife, Lisa. Lisa originally asked him for a divorce in the first novel but (SPOILER ALERT) was made into a vampire because she became privy to information that would have required her death if she were to remain human. They are living in a quaint French village, Saint Michel, that Acilius inherited from his two ancient and powerful vampire aunts who (SPOILER ALERT) perished in the previous book during a grand battle with a lethal group of vampire hunters based in Iowa.
Things are not going so great for the couple who, if honest, were always destined to end up in an epic divorce. However at present Lisa is none too happy about being a vampire, in fact she requested to be killed rather than be made one, ergo she continually shows her displeasure by eating the staff – kind of like you made me a monster so I am going to behave like a monster. Titus, at the end of his tether, goes out for a meal to return to an empty villa. Lisa, though a young and still a sun sensitive vampire, has left him. This begins a sequence of events that will lead to a lot of blood shed the proverbial carpet.
I do not think Just Plain Blood is as good as A History of Blood. I felt that Titus’ character was not as well drawn as he was in the first book. In History he was a vampire who had been living as a human for several years who suddenly faced the very human dilemma of having the rug pulled out from underneath him. As a vampire living as a human he had made numerous concessions to mask his immortal life. These same concessions distinguished him from his vampire brethren and allowed him to see the world from a unique perspective. For instance, even though Titus killed people he felt guilty about it (which is a common device for writers to soften their bloodsuckers) however he missed the dog that inspired his embracement of humanity in the first place…and everyone loves a good dog story. Now humanity does not feel so thrilling for Titus after being kicked in the teeth by an unfaithful and money grubbing wife. He was a Roman legionnaire who morphed into Walter Mitty who then had to get his vampire grove back.
In Just Plain Blood Titus is more sure of himself even though every decision he makes gives him 99 more problems. There is a lot of banter (I mean a lot) between friends and him about what a huge A-hole he is. In the first book he wasn’t, in this one he really, really is. It is hard to root for Titus after he causally admits that he just slaughtered a family of four because of a need to kill. On the upside he still dreamed about his beloved dog and I felt it was high time for him to go to an animal shelter and indulge in a relationship with a new best friend.
What did work was the violence. Usually violence is not a big selling point for me, but I thought DeFazio did it very well. It was easy to follow the action which many authors trip up on. Particularly effective were his descriptions of head injuries especially in the eye region. More than one eye found itself oozing green or simply hanging on by a vein.
Another thing that pumped up the story was the continued saga of the Iowa vampire hunters who while in hiding came up with a drug that allowed them to be stronger and faster. I don’t want to reveal more because it was an enjoyable plot point. I will add that more than one set of characters are forced to ask themselves if the enemy of their enemy is also their enemy.
The book leaves off with several storylines up in the air. Are characters that died really dead (I mean beyond being vampire dead)? What will the new alliances look like? Will Titus find a new four footed friend to guide him?
I recommend Just Plain Blood for the innovations to the vampire genre. I think DeFazio really has to bring the third book home to make his trilogy stand out.