Traveling With the Dead

Traveling With the Dead; 1995 Barbara Hambly; Del Ray, NY773989

This is number two of Hambly’s vampire/murder/suspense novels involving Dr. James Asher, his wife Lydia Asher and their unwilling, older than dirt, vamperic associate Don Simon Ysidro.

As always my reviews are not as much about the content of the book as it is about the over all flow and structure. But let me state here that I think of the three books in this particular series to date – “Those Who Hunt the Night”; “The Magistrates of Hell”; and “Traveling With the Dead” –  book number two is by far my favorite, at least in terms of story and plot.

What I like most about the author’s stories is their ease of  read and that almost all of her characters are even easier to connect to; something I can’t say about every author’s work I read. It’s not that the plot is simple or that the characters have no depth or emotional texture to grab hold of – just the opposite. But if Hemingway wrote to stimulate the soul, then Hambly writes to entertain it with intelligence and ingenuity. And though I wouldn’t use  terms like ‘brilliant’ in connection with her prose, I wouldn’t hesitate to use ‘astute’, ‘clever’, ‘cunning’, ‘intriguing’ or ‘vulnerable’.

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”― J.D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye

Mechanically speaking I think it would be hard to fault Hambly’s efforts (but then I’m the one who loves a truly convoluted tale whose main characters have been known to switch plot lanes without turn signals) but correctly structured stories still don’t guarantee the story is worth the read. In this case she’s managed to do both: write a well structured story while telling a good tale.

If I were looking for something to stimulate my cerebral cortex I’d probably have gone with Hemingway. But on the other hand if I were looking to unplug from a long day of writing, SM, and life in general and I needed to be delightfully entertained, I’d go with “Traveling With the Dead.”

On my reader scale of one to five stars I’m giving Traveling With the Dead 3.5 stars.

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