Review | Bloodlines – Peter Hartog

About the Book

When former hotshot homicide detective Tom “Doc” Holliday is recruited to join Special Crimes, he trades in his boring desk job for a second chance to do what he does best, hunt down killers. And his first case doesn’t disappoint: a murdered woman with a bogus past, her body drained of blood, and two eyewitnesses wasted on the designer drug goldjoy claiming a vampire did it.

For Holliday is no stranger to the unusual. He wields the Insight, a fickle clairvoyance that allows him to see the dark and terrible things that hide upon his world. After all, when you live in Empire City, where magic and technology co-exist, and humanity endures behind walls of stone and spell-forged steel, anything is possible.

Saddled with a team whose past is as checkered as his own, Holliday embarks upon an investigation that pits them against bio-engineered vampires, interdimensional parasites and the magical masterminds behind it all.

From nightclubs and skyscrapers, to underground drug labs and coffee shops, Holliday’s search for the truth will uncover a shadowy conspiracy that spans the ages, and forces him to confront a destiny he never wanted.

Published May, 2021
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A while ago, I was in the mood for something different. Something that’s fantasy, but maybe a bit more modern. To be honest, I was on a bit of a “why doesn’t anyone ever include technology in their fantasy” bender, and so I happened across the delightful genre of urban fantasy. From there, it was a hop, skip, and jump until I found Peter Hartog. 

Bloodlines is really one hell of a book. A nonstop thrill ride from page one, with a constant flow of action and an inability to look away from any of it. This book sucked me in quickly and left me gasping and eagerly grabbing book two. 

Bloodlines is set in a megacity (known as an enclave) called Empire City. That name itself gives me a certain vibe for the place. Instantly, I think of Batman, the dark alleyways and impoverished denizens of a huge metropolis replete with secrets. Empire City makes me picture dark deeds in dark places. For a name, it’s an evocative one, and that’s one of the first things I noticed about Hartog’s writing in general. It’s evocative and extremely vivid, two things I honestly did not expect from this book. Two things that delight me when I run across them.

Hartog’s polished prose cuts like a knife. It stabs deep with visceral, vivid, colorful detail, bringing the world of Empire City to blazing life. Hartog, however, doesn’t throw readers into the deep end. He knows just how to weave in information at the right moments, easing readers into the strange, dark, messy beauty of his world and the people who inhabit it. I quickly realized I was just an enamored with his worldbuilding as I was with the characters and the story itself. It’s really rare that I come across a debut work that is this polished, this visceral, and this carefully executed. 

Bloodlines is told through the first-person perspective of one Tom “Doc” Holliday. Holliday is a former homicide detective. He’s got the brooding vibe of a jaded man that I know and love in many books of this nature, with an unforgettable voice that Hartog really nails. I love first-person perspectives because they allow me to get absolutely immersed in the protagonist’s point of view, his thoughts, emotions, and feelings, and I really think that added another layer that benefitted this book, which pushed it from “very good” to “amazing” in my estimation. 

Holliday has a dark past and a lot of regrets. Neither he nor life have had an easy go at it, and his somewhat cynical nature kept him interesting and fresh (I love me a good cynic.). When he’s given a chance to redeem himself by joining a Special Crimes Unit, he grabs it with both hands. Soon, he teams up with a bunch of colorful individuals who stand at the periphery of the book, and fill it with more vibrant hues, and some genuine moments that had me really admiring Hartog’s character work. More, I felt connected to these characters, their memorable voices, and the multi-hued dimension they added to this world of Hartog’s. 

More, I will say that the characters and the vivid writing worked together as a sort of one-two punch that not only sucked me into the story and made it genuinely matter to me, but also infused me with a sense of wonder throughout.

The plot, as I mentioned above, is relentless. There is always something happening somewhere, and all of it matters. There’s rarely a dull moment, and the constant flow of action kept me one-more-chapter-ing this book late into the night. While there were some points in the book that felt predictable, I was constantly surprised by how carefully Hartog revealed information, and his mastery of misdirection. 

All in all, Bloodlines really blew me away. From prose, to plot, to characters, to the world itself, every part of this book sang. It’s a strong start to a new series, written by an author to watch.

5/5 stars