The time has come to return to the very awkwardly-titled adventures of vampire detective Felix Gomez. This time, it’s – do I have to say it? Sigh, alright, here goes – X-Rated Bloodsuckers, by Mario Acevedo.
Felix has survived Operation Iraqi Freedom, being turned into a vampire, and a ravenous horde of nymphomaniacs. Now he faces his toughest task ever—navigating the corrupt world of Los Angeles politics to solve the murder of a distinguished young surgeon turned porn star. But both human and vampire alike have reasons to want the secret to stay buried. . .
X-Rated Bloodsuckers, the second book of the Felix Gomez series, is in every way softer and more toned-down than its predecessor, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats. No UFOs or alien infiltrators are brought in to mix up the genre; it’s just vampires and humans. The X-rating alluded to in the title comes not from sensationalist and entirely gratuitous nymphomania like the first book, but by featuring a porn studio as a setting. That’s hardly shocking; hell, The Dresden Files did a book about a vampire-owned porn studio, and it’s practically mainstream as urban fantasy goes. All in all, despite having a provocative title, this is a much more ordinary type of book.
And that’s a good thing.
The first book of the Felix Gomez series just screamed “trying too hard”. It was trying to be edgy and offensive for no actual purpose. And as I pointed out in my review of that book, it didn’t even succeed in achieving any shock value; despite how hard it was selling itself as dirty and raunchy and extremely radical, the actual content was fairly tame. Maybe it would have succeeded in making me blush if I’d read it when I was a young pubescent teen, but now? I’ve read stuff like the Second Apocalypse series by R. Scott Bakker, which makes The Nymphos of Rocky Flats look positively wholesome. Don’t make claims you can’t back up; it only leads to disappointment.
In any case, with X-Rated Bloodsuckers no longer trying to be outre and edgy and off-the-wall zany with aliens and nymphomaniacs and whatnot, it is free to concentrate its attention in other areas: things like plot and character and storytelling. You know, the things that actually make a book interesting and enjoyable.
Like the previous book, this one centers around Felix having to unravel a conspiracy. But whereas the elements in the first book seemed entirely random (why did the red mercury cause nymphomania? Just ‘cause.) and the antagonists disconnected from one another (what did the vampire hunters have to do with the alien conspiracy? Eh, it was all just a coincidence), this one does a much better job at tying everything together: there’s a group of antagonists working together towards greedy, immoral, power-hungry ends; there’s a second antagonist targeting the first group of antagonists in pursuit of vengeance; and the protagonist is stuck in the crossfire between them, dodging fire from both sides as he tries to figure who wants to kill whom and for what reasons. And in the end, when Felix unravels the web of conspiracy, everything ties together and makes sense.
Finally, on a personal note, I liked the ending. Whereas the big reveal in the first book was of an alien infiltrator who hadn’t actually done anything to contribute to the plot in any way, I was impressed by the big reveal in this one of how an alliance of rich vampires and powerful humans seeking to overturn the supernatural status quo found itself destroyed by the ruthlessness of an ordinary woman; a Muggle who had no idea she was up against vampires but managed to rise to the occasion and prevail anyone through sheer underhanded nastiness.
X-Rated Bloodsuckers is a big improvement from the first novel, and has won the Felix Gomez series a second chance from me.
Final Rating: 3/5