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Flesh and Blood by Daniel Dersch
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Flesh and Blood

by Daniel Dersch

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Flesh and Blood (kindle version) Claire & Mandy Hagen are sisters living in NYC.They only have each other for family so the elder Claire feels responsible for Mandy's well being. Apparently she's not doing such a great job as Mandy ends up in a psych ward, claiming a vampire is sucking her dry.
Horrified, Claire starts to dig through Mandy's life, looking for clues to her madness. At her sister's apartment she finds a whack of empty Valium bottles & an online contact. This leads her to "John" who agrees to meet her at JFK & tell her his story.
Yes, vamps do exist & he recently ran into one while doing a B & E. Unfortunately, he woke the homeowner. John survived but he'll never forget the floating "man" with the glowing red eyes. He's leaving the country & gives Claire advice & a cross. Neither is aware they are being watched by Bishop, a mercenary who belongs to a shadowy organization with ties to the Vatican.
Dismissing him as a crank, she heads out to visit Mandy, who is now sporting a straightjacket. Seems she's become a tad violent & wastes no time attacking her sister. Claire might be able to accept that as part of her psychosis but Mandy's glowing red eyes kind of freak her out.
Then things get weird(er). Driving home, Claire realizes she's being followed. On the news she hears a man was murdered at JFK. She needs a little quiet time to reflect on the day's events but soon has company. The stranger knows a lot about Claire & the men following her but before he gets too far, Bishop & his crew attack. In short order, the apartment is demolished in a bloody gun fight & the stranger flees, taking Claire. The chase is on.
This is the first in a series featuring journalist Claire Hagen & George Powell, a hybrid vampire (the stranger). Plot lines include saving Mandy from her fate, George's background & the story behind Bishop and the ancient order he works for. Typically, an author uses book #1 to establish the characters & do the world building necessary to introduce the reader to his "reality". Here, he succeeds some of the time.
George is by far the most compelling character. His status as a hybrid has its' roots in Auschwitz & it's an interesting concept. Turns out those darn Nazis were more devious than we knew. Claire starts out as mildly annoying, a weepy young woman with a martyr's complex but these attributes are toned down as the book progresses, thank God. I found Mandy more interesting but we never really get her story despite it being central to the plot. Bishop has a predominant role but comes off as two dimensional, a Rambo-like assassin who spends most of this time plotting his partner's demise & assuring himself he's an alpha male, twirling his metaphorical moustache. There's little about how he came to be the hired gun for a Vatican cardinal or why he's so motivated. 
The world building is spotty at best. We never learn why Mandy was targeted, who her vampire/maker is, the history of the Organization or how vamps in general fit into society. It's ok to leave unanswered questions for a subsequent book but the reader should finish the first one with a basic understanding of the game & all its' players so they feel invested in their fate.
The remainder of the story is largely devoted to Claire & George being hunted by Bishop & Co., leading to the inevitable showdown. There are several scenes where a character finds themselves cornered & facing death, only to have time stop as they or their attacker launch into a lengthy explanation or internal monologue. It kills any tension that may have been building but of course, provides time for escape. I know it seems ironic to talk about believability in a PNR but if an imaginary world is well created, it can at least feel credible.
Peripheral characters are few, mostly members of Bishop's gang. Claire seems to have no friends so her only contact is her boss at the paper as she runs from crisis to crisis. The dialogue is oddly stilted in places but this may be due to blips in translation & have a smoother flow in the original German.
By the end, most of the cast has undergone huge change & although little is resolved, it's the strongest part of the book. So if you enjoyed the ride, no doubt you're looking forward to the next one & the further adventures of the Hagen sisters. ( )
  RowingRabbit | Sep 14, 2014 |
I like a good vampire story. However it seems that there are an overwhelming amount of books out there about vampires that you have to be careful what you pick up. A lot of them can be cheesy and not well written. You can be assured however that this was not the case with this book. In fact, you were never know that this book was translated from German to English. I wanted to point this out because if you have ever read a book that has been translated from another language, sometimes the language barrier can interupt the flow of the story and make it read chunky.

This story was not just about vampires attacking but it also showed the progression of the transformation from human to vampire. The feel of this book was dark with some psychological elements to it as well. Like were the vampire hunters really the good guys? Maybe the vampires were the good ones. There was plenty of things happening in the story to keep it moving and interesting. I liked the ending. If you are looking for a good vampire story to "sink your teeth into" you have to check out this book. ( )
  Cherylk | Jul 13, 2014 |
Vampires, journalists, and the Vatican—oh, my!

Flesh and Blood by Daniel Dersch, translated by Gerald Chapple (47North, $14.95).

Daniel Dersch, a German immigrant, writes in his native language, but the sensibility here is all-American horror.

Cynical New York journalist Claire Hagen (and that’s how some of us get hooked—a female journalist with an attitude) is what you’d call a skeptic.If her mother said, “I love you,” Claire would get confirmation from another source.

So when Claire learns that her sister, Amanda, with whom she was close before her career took over her life, has been locked up in a psych ward, she’s understandably concerned. Amanda claims that a vampire has been assaulting her, and now fears she’s about to “turn.”

Of course, Claire’s inner reporter kicks in and the wheels of this horror/thriller start to turn. Instead of a cute high school girl supervised by a council of British “Watchers,” the Vatican has troops at war with the fanged ones, and the origin of the vampires is less mystical than evil Nazi experimental. That’s an interesting take, but wouldn’t it make more sense for a secret NATO commando unit to be going after them than a bunch of priests?

But when a hybrid vampire (shades of Angel! and Twilight!) shows up, all the signs that this is going to be a series coalesce.

For casual vampire genre fiction fans, this isn’t bad; it’s certainly got a solid character in Claire and enough plotting to keep things rolling along smoothly. For serious horror readers, though, expect to be a little frustrated that Flesh and Blood doesn’t break any new ground. ( )
  KelMunger | May 8, 2014 |
Book Info: Genre: Horror
Reading Level: Adults
Recommended for: Fans of horror, those who yearn for the old, bad vampires
Trigger Warnings: murder, killing, assassination, one character considers sexual assault, torture

My Thoughts: Ah, in a world full of brooding vampires and immortal lovers and people who sparkle in the sunlight, this brings it right back to the nitty-gritty of vampires: they are predators. They eat us. There is nothing beautiful about them. Well, true vampires, anyway. Turns out the Nazis did some experimenting, and throw in a Vatican-based conspiracy.... but shhh, spoilers, sweetie, spoilers!

I have rated this as horror, because that is how I read the ending. However, the ending is left open for interpretation, so others might read this as dark urban fantasy. Whatever the genre, this German author does an amazing writer with it, and I hope his other two books will be translated into English so I can read them as well. If you like horror—and I mean true horror here—and/or want the old, bad vampires back, then check out this book. I think you'll like it.

Disclosure: I received a paperback copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: A veteran New York City journalist, Claire Hagen has learned not to trust everything she hears. So when her younger sister lands in a mental hospital after claiming a vampire is feeding off her blood, Claire is naturally skeptical. A search of her sister’s apartment convinces her: The delusions are a side effect of the drugs she discovers her sister had been taking.

But a deeper investigation uncovers more than Claire bargained for. Why was a man who claimed to know her sister from an online vampire forum shot dead moments after Claire interviewed him? Why are her sister’s symptoms getting worse in the hospital? And why have agents from the Vatican taken a sudden interest in Claire?

Consumed by doubt and growing paranoia, Claire barely has time to ponder her next move before a violent confrontation in her apartment changes everything. She quickly finds herself on the run with a mysterious stranger who says he wants to protect her but may not be quite what he seems. Can she trust him? ( )
  Katyas | May 7, 2014 |
Claire and Amanda are sisters who both live in New York City. They vow to have a close relationship but Claire's career starts to take off and she finds herself seeing Amanda less and less. One day, Claire gets a call that Amanda has been institutionalized because she believes that she is being bitten and stalked by a vampire. Determined to find out what happened to her little sister, Claire begins to investigation. Let does she know that this will put her up against the Catholic Church who has fought vampire for centuries and make her the alley of a vampire who is the result of Nazi experimentation.

As a protagonist, Claire is very strong. She absolutely refuses to take no for an answer and always tries to be as proactive as possible. Even when faced with overwhelming force, Claire is always actively searching for a way to defend or protect herself. It would have been easy for Claire to place her safety in George's because he is after all a vampire but Claire constantly questions him and even develops plans to ditch him if necessary. I like that for Dersch, strong doesn't mean turning his female characters into a weapon.

Though Claire is the protagonist of Flesh and Blood, male characters far outnumber female characters. The male characters are not well developed at all and read like card board cut out random bad guys working for a shady organization. The relationship between Bishop and Whitman is particularly confusing. Whitman has been with the organization for many years and this is the first time he has been assigned a partner. I don't understand the level of animosity that he feels for Bishop. Whitman spends most of the book contemplating how he is going to kill Bishop and other than the fact that he has the misfortune of being assigned to work alongside Whitman we are given no justification for his rage. This took up a large percentage of the story and at the end of the book turned out to be largely irrelevant.

Dersh did give us an interesting take on vampire lore by suggesting Nazi experimentation. Given the research that they ( read: Nazis) were known to participate in, it gave the story a sense of reality and added reality. Normally, I take issue with people invoking the holocaust but Dersch seemed to make this work.

Read More ( )
  FangsfortheFantasy | Apr 24, 2014 |
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A veteran New York City journalist, Claire Hagen has learned not to trust everything she hears. So when her younger sister lands in a mental hospital after claiming a vampire is feeding off her blood, Claire is naturally skeptical. A search of her sister’s apartment convinces her: the delusions are a side effect of the drugs she discovers her sister had been taking.

But a deeper investigation uncovers more than Claire bargained for. Why was a man who claimed to know her sister from an online vampire forum shot dead moments after Claire interviewed him? Why are her sister’s symptoms getting worse in the hospital? And why have agents from the Vatican taken a sudden interest in Claire?

Consumed by doubt and growing paranoia, Claire barely has time to ponder her next move before a violent confrontation in her apartment changes everything. She quickly finds herself on the run with a mysterious stranger who says he wants to protect her but may not be quite what he seems. Can she trust him?

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