Vampires, man. Their popularity constantly ebbs and flows, but they never really go away. If there's a problem it's that there are countless vampire novels. Literally, is it even possible at this point to count them all? Well, here's a novel that isn't the same old song and dance.
Greg Hall's At the End of Church Street isn't a supernatural tale, though. This one has its feet firmly planted in the real world. Think The Lost Boys if Keifer Sutherland et al weren't really vamps, but instead were a motley crew of disaffected youths with a penchant for all things vampiric. Then, place that group of teens in a setting like Orlando, the land of Mickey Mouse.
The Zombie Zoo, as they affectionately call themselves, call an abandoned theater home and spend their time foraging for food and getting their kicks by spooking tourists and pissing off the police. Otherwise, they're pretty harmless and get by on what little reputation they have. When a runaway, Rebecca-Anne, winds up alone and desperate in Orlando, she finds herself welcomed into their underworld. She gets a new wardrobe, new attitude, and even a new name. Lilith.
But her arrival comes at a time when they are under threat from a killer in the city. Someone is killing the wannabe bloodsuckers, and apparently going about it as if they really were vampires. The novel is not without a number of suspects, either. The question is whether they can survive long enough to find out who is responsible before they're all killed, or the police crack down on them as tourists seem to become targets as well and they become a reviled target on two fronts.
The cast of characters is varied and some are genuinely likable. Wolfy was a particular favorite of mine, a boy among the older kids who gets by as a would-be werewolf, replete with fake claws and mask which he dons during theatrical fits as if summoning Lon Chaney. Rebecca/Lilith was a bit harder to like, with her constant insecurity and rather wild swings in temperament when in the company of her love interest, Adam the leader of the pack. But, despite some jumpy switches in point of view, the cast of characters are rather easy to go along with and react in genuine ways to the ordeals thrown at them.
It's not even close to your conventional teen vampire romp. This one approaches some subject matter than I doubt many of the more popular books would be bothered to tread. It's not a perfect book, but it's an impressive debut novel and a commendable switch in tone from Greg Hall's jovial personality. The man can make you laugh, but it looks like he can also dish out the horror too.