BloodLaw by Blaise Ramsay
Noire gangs and vampire fangs
The chills. The thrills. The overwhelming sense of impending dread that conjures images of pure nightmare fuel. This is what makes a good monster story.
In recent years, the vampire character has transitioned from a monstrous creature of darkness and undeath, to a broody, angsty protagonist that’s almost akin to a superhero.
What an injustice.
Blaise Ramsay’s BloodLaw is a welcome change of pace, filled with dark nights, darker deeds, and displays of unearthly might that will surely help this classic monster archetype return to form.
I’ve always enjoyed a good monster story. From Frankenstein to the Wolfman, there’s something about the primal nature of the supernatural that appeals to me. The idea of hidden forces in the world, ones that demonstrate the side of humanity we fight to repress, makes the world seem so much less mundane.
Set in Chicago during Prohibition, BloodLaw follows former ADA Alastair Maddox, a man who tirelessly waged war in the courtroom against vicious gangsters and the corrupt officials who protected them, until he woke up in a grave in the woods. And yet, he continues to walk the Chicago streets at night, caught between life and death, desperate for answers on what he has become and why someone went through the trouble of sending a vampire to silence him.
The intriguing characters are what make this story so gripping. Alastair is a strong, resolute man of the law; he is to be admired and emulated in his steadfast war on Chicago’s criminal element, despite the constant threat to his person. Yet, his strength proves to be insufficient when he meets the alluring and otherworldly Alexandra DeLane, a woman who possesses such a terrifying sway over the hearts and minds of men that she can’t possibly be natural.
Other pivotal characters include Alastair’s loyal partner and friend Paul Stone, newspaper journalist and Alastair’s girlfriend Charlaine “Charlie” Ware, and the morally ambiguous, tough-as-nails Mason Downing. They and many others are pivotal grounding points during Alastair’s quest for the truth.
The setting is also a treat, filled with classic scenery that harkens back to the noir films of the 1950s. The actual writing does wonders in this regard, capturing both the vernacular of the time and the gritty, savage nature of living in an active gangster warzone.
As a mystery, the novel provides an engaging narrative that never gives too much away, but keeps the reader itching to turn the page. Nothing is just handed to Alastair. He is forced to work for every shred of evidence, even when he can’t see how it pertains to the larger picture.
BloodLaw is a refreshing representation of the vampire, one that would make Bram Stoker proud. Our first image of the story is of Alastair clawing his way out of his own grave in the pouring rain, completely clueless to how he ended up there. The experience is very jarring, conveying a genuine sense of confusion and disorientation, unapologetically thrusting Alastair into the narrative.
After this ordeal, Alastair is soon confronted with the crux of the novel, the fact that vampires are monsters, and if they fight their monstrous nature, there are consequences. Painful ones. Despite the strength, senses, and other abilities, vampirism is not a gift, but a burden. Alastair understands this, and fights to hold onto his humanity, despite the newfound torment of his existence.
In addition, one of the most important things for me concerning the book was the issue of the romantic subplot. Too often in supernatural stories, a human will fall for a vampire, or a vampire will fall for a human, which results in a cliched, unrealistic and all-around ridiculous sequence of events that has no real substance or bearing on the story, eventually culminating in a torrid love affair between the characters. This abysmal trope is thankfully absent from BloodLaw.
This is not to say there is no romance whatsoever. It's the way Ramsay writes the romance that makes it a working subplot. Alastair already knows Charlie before the start of the book, and there is a very strong bond of love between the two of them. This is integral to the story in many ways, mostly in Alastair wanting to keep Charlie safe and her insistence that he doesn’t need to worry.
This dynamic is perfectly contrasted with the introduction of Alexandra. While Charlie is by no means an ugly woman, Alastair admits that Alexandra’s beauty is otherworldly. He is inexplicably immediately drawn to her, but the feeling of her inside his mind makes his stomach churn and leaves him with a dirty, grungy feeling. These empty feelings again speaks to the strength of Alastair’s character.
The romance of BloodLaw also keeps with the theme of vampirism in the book; despite certain benefits it can bring, especially to a relationship, it is a burden to the afflicted.
The supernatural may not be for everyone, but a story of intrigue, deception, and discovery speaks to many. BloodLaw is a work of fiction that has something for anyone who enjoys a quality work of mystery. Readers will be unable to set the book aside, eager to read on, and find out what else lurks just out of sight on the savage streets of Chicago.