Note the large amount of copy I got in this review of Many Bloody Returns. You can't even tell whether or not he liked my piece.
from Don D'Ammassa's Critical Mass...
Many Bloody Returns edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner, Ace, 9/07, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-441-01522-1
"Theme anthologies continue to get more and more specific. This one is a collection of vampire stories, but they all take place at birthday celebrations. What’s next? Left handed vampires with dolphin tattoos who knit for a hobby? Anyway, I only read a story or two a day to avoid overload, and on balance it's a pretty good collection if you're not already terminally overdosed on the undead. And while I'm including this under Horror fiction, most of the stories are anything but, ranging from mystery to humor to puzzle story to mild romance. The opening story by Charlaine Harris features her recurring character, Sookie Stackhouse, the waitress who gets involved with good and evil vampires in each of her novels. This time she meets and unmasks a Dracula impostor in a brief, well written but pretty minor story. It does have one good line. “If experience has taught me anything, it’s to dispose instantly of bloodstained clothing.” Christopher Golden follows with a far more substantial piece, and a different variety of vampire, a coming of age story like you’ve never read before. Bill Crider contributes a humorous take on the teenaged undead in “I Was a Teenage Vampire”, followed by Kelley Armstrong’s “Twilight”, which was a bit too long for its story.
Jim Butcher has a very long Harry Dresden story, in which his quest to find a missing vampire on his birthday turns into a mystery and near disaster. I thought this one was better than some of the Dresden novels, avoiding some of the formulaic aspects of that series. P.N. Elrod provides a pretty good short adventure of her popular vampire hero, Jack Fleming, and Rachel Caine draws on her new Morganville Vampire series for her contribution. Jeanne Stein, author of a couple of vampire novels, has one of the better stories with "The Witch and the Wicked", wherein a witch caters a vampire birthday party, incinerates the host, and ends up with his consciousness inhabiting her body. Tanya Huff also has an above average story, "Blood Wrapped", featuring her undead romance novelist.
Carolyn Haines adds a well written, tragic, but relatively slight story, and Tate Hallaway follows up with a romantic interlude. Elaine Viets' "Vampire Hours" is an interesting, semi-mystery involving murder and a nicely nasty bit of revenge. Last up is co-editor Kelner's "How Stella Got Her Grave Back", the best title in the collection. It opens with a nice image, a vampire visiting her grave on her birthday. There's a good deal of humor in this one; vampires are apparently fond of practical jokes. It's a clever story, but about as far from horrific as you can get and still have vampires. 5/9/07