The Good, The Mad and The Undead by Rob Knipe

7/10 More madcap fun, this time with added vampires!

This is the second book I have read by Rob Knipe, and events in The Good, The Mad and the Undead follow on directly from those that occurred in A Heist Too Far, a book I reviewed last year.

This was, to steal and slightly re-phrase a oft-repeated footballing analogy, a "book of two halves". I will be  honest straight up and admit that I struggled with the first half (40% to be exact) as it just didn't seem to be going anywhere and lacked the sense of direction and momentum that I feel is vital to to a story, and I also found that the escapades of the characters just didn't seem to make sense. But the second half was much, much better, and far more fun to read. It took me 2 months to read the first half, 3 days to read the second, and I think those figures speak very loudly for themselves.

As I previously mentioned the story is picked up two months after the events in A Heist Too Far and Mallik is beginning to get itchy feet, his need for adventure resulting in ever increasingly violent outbursts. The two men he is living with, the distinctly normal Sok Lard, and a vampire Jack Von Hellsprung, find themselves exiled from S'Ville after one bar-fight too many and a small scuffle with the Watch. With nowhere to go and still separated from Dick and Jules, Mallik decides to finish a job he failed years before, and takes Sok and Jack to the castle of Max Von Mähmaschine, a powerful Vampire Mage…

For those who have yet to read the first book in the series, A Heist Too Far, here's a quick recap. It is a book jammed full of memorable characters which successfully merges the styles of Tolkien, Gemmell and Pratchett. My only major criticism of it was that it was too long. And I also found that the second book consisted of more pages than was arguably good for it, and if you look at my comments above you will see that I would not have been upset if much of the first half was edited out. I understand that this part of the book served to introduce new characters and set the scene for the new adventure to come but I can't help thinking that it could have been done in far less pages, 50 rather than 200 perhaps.

But once the half-way point was reached underway I really began to enjoy the book. We are given a fascinating insight into Mallick's past and once we find ourselves on the island of the Vampire Count the blend of Dracula and fantasy merges nicely, the pace picks up and the momentum carries the reader along with an improved sense of purpose. The fight scenes are well-done and there is a genuine sense of eerie darkness found on the Vampire's island, and the way in which vampire magic was used to mask the real state of the castle was a nice touch. These passages reminded me of what I enjoyed so much about this author's writing and the book built towards an exciting and satisfying climax.

In conclusion, I do like Rob Knipe's work and I like the characters he creates but the overriding feeling I was left with was that I read about too much that simply was unnecessary, the removal of which would have not damaged the narrative in the slightest. I must stress that this is a personal opinion and others may disagree. So I would still recommend the books but with the caveat that you may, like me, find them a little over-long but there is plenty of good stuff in there as well, to make the effort more than worthwhile.

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