The Dr. Greta Helsing series by Vivian Shaw

Today I’m reviewing all three books in Vivian Shaw’s Greta Helsing series – which, spoiler alert – I loved.  That’s right.  I loved this series and literally couldn’t get enough in fact I hope that the author will choose to revisit this and write some more books in the series because I am so there for some more of Greta’s shenanigans.  Little confession, I do love urban fantasy, but, this series really breaks the mold in more ways than one.  Anyway, before I get ahead of myself I was planning to give a short review for all three books so I better press on.

Strange Practice (Dr. Greta Helsing #1) by Vivian Shaw

Strange Practice is the start of the series and is a real winner for me.  A great combination that sets out the stall in a really natural way avoiding info dumps and UF first book syndrome.  We make the acquaintance of Greta Helsing, well, Dr Greta Helsing.  You might recognise the name and in fact Greta does come from a long line of people who are more than aware of the monsters living among us.  Greta has turned to the caring profession and runs a small practice in London treating all sorts of supernatural creatures for  a range of ailments that they suffer from. As the story starts, and it really does kick off pretty quickly, Greta finds herself helping a vampire attacked in a very strange ambush. The vampire who suffered the attack is Sir Francis Varney (a name from Victorian penny dreadfuls) who was brought to Greta by her friend Ruthven (also a vampire and overall good guy).  Unfortunately Varney isn’t healing the way that vampires normally do and so Greta finds herself both with a new patient and also some much unwanted attention in the process.

I’m not going to give too much away about the plot.  Suffice to say this is a great story for introducing us to the strange bunch of misfits that really do work their magic on you during this story and nothing is off limits.  This is an author who certainly succeeds in giving you characters that you can really become attached to.  Greta is such a great leading lady that I couldn’t help loving her.  She has a certain, almost, vulnerability, that belies her real passion, strength and determination.  As soon as there’s a sick critter around she means business. Then of course there is Varney and Ruthven who between them come across as a pair of civilised gentlemen until they find the need to step up the heat.  We also have Greta’s very close friend – Fass.  A demon who Greta shares a mental link with and is incredibly fond of.

On top of this there’s a lovely gothic feel, we delve into the streets below the streets of London in search of creepy characters with glowing blue eyes.  There’s a sort of delicious over the top feel to the story that’s accompanied with a quirky sense of humour and some very eccentric characters.

Overall, Strange Practice is a great start to this series and my only regret is not picking it up sooner.

A strong 4 out of 5

Dreadful Company (Dr. Greta Helsing #2) by Vivian Shaw

The second book in the Helsing series take us to a new location.  Greta is in Paris, accompanied by Ruthven.  She’s agreed to step in and speak at a conference on behalf of a friend who is unable to fulfil his commitment.  In fairness, although Greta isn’t looking forward to the keynote speech she’s enjoying a night at the opera with Ruthven.  The two are dressed to the nines and enjoying a night in this beautiful city.  Unfortunately they catch the attention of an an old acquaintance who carries a grudge and before long Greta has become the focus for this character.

Once again Shaw goes below the City for much of the book using the famous catacombs where a coven of rather new vampires have set up their stall.

And again, there are such a lot of great literary references that play out as the story unfolds – not lease of all Phantom of the Opera.  I love the way the author gives little nods to countless works of fiction, they play into the story wonderfully with folklore and myth being twisted into something new and some of the references are such a lot of fun – like the sparkly vampires.

Greta is just as good to read in this instalment, especially given the unusual circumstances she finds herself in.  She spends a good deal of the book without the help of her friends (who are desperately looking for her).  And yet, she maintains her sense of self still helping creatures who  need help – even those who mean her harm.

What I really enjoyed about this one was the great setting which really adds to the gothic feel, the real sense of family that is growing between Greta and her friends and that is increasing, not to mention a romantic twist between one of the characters and Greta herself – which is in the very early stages and doesn’t play a central role but is quite heartwarming.

I listened to this instalment on audio and really enjoyed it – I did wonder if I would struggle switching format midway through the series but there was no difficulty whatsoever and I loved the narration.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Grave Importance (Dr. Greta Helsing #3) by Vivian Shaw

Oh dear – parting really is such sweet sorrow. I’m almost sorry to have read all three of these in fairly quick succession because this is the final (I think??) in the series and so the happy reading vibe is tinged a little with sadness.

Greta is in London as the book begins but she’s soon going to be flying to France as a favour to a friend.  The setting for Grave Importance is the beautiful South of France where Greta will be spending some time stepping in and running a very swish medical facility for mummies.  It’s more like a luxury retreat than a care facility but Greta is so made up for the opportunity – not just to escape the gloomy weather back home but also to have the chance to use such uptodate equipment.

This is a story with quite a lot going on, although it’s not confusing at all imo and all the different elements come together eventually in a very satisfactory way, but plenty of threads and a little jumping around.  Personally, I loved it – this is a story that really does take you to hell and back and what a revelation that was!

What I really loved about Grave Importance is threefold.  Firstly the plot really does pull out all the stops.  There’s plenty of drama and baddies running amok and it has a strange feel of Bond meets Dogma at certain points plus a real ‘end of the world’ type crisis.  Secondly, the way the characters have all found a place in my heart.  The characters are so good that I simply have to applaud Shaw, not just for taking already established characters out of literary fiction but managing to inject them with new life .  Also for making you feel that although they’re the monsters – they’re not really the monsters at all or more to the point, there are good, bad and many shades in between, whether the characters are human or monster.  Thirdly, speaking of injecting things with new life I think it’s such a great concept to have a doctor for the supernatural.  I’ve read countless urban fantasy over the years but this feels so original to me.

It’s cheeky, it’s charming and it’s fun.

My rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

 

In conclusion, if you love urban fantasy that includes literary references, gothic(y) goodness, a superb cast of lovable characters and some rather quirky humour then give Greta a try.

Where I got copies

Strange Practice – bought for kindle

Dreadful Company – bought from Audible

Grave Importance – received through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.