In her Dr. Greta Helsing series, author Vivian Shaw mixes weird science, likable characters, and tongue-in-cheek humor in a contemporary fantasy brew. Not as gritty as some urban fantasy, the books are built around Helsing’s career as a medical doctor to supernatural creatures. And they’re eminently readable. In fact, when I finished the second book, Dreadful Company, I dove right into the third, Grave Importance. While it’s been over three years since I read book one, Strange Practice, I decided not to let the series languish on my shelf.
Dreadful Company (Book #2)
Greta is in Paris for a supernatural medicine conference with her good friend, Lord Edmund Ruthven. It’s just a short hop from their London home base, and Greta gives an authoritative talk there. After Ruthven heads home, Greta finds an adorable little wellmonster in her hotel room. This is odd, since they’re quite rare. And then another fuzzy baby monster shows up. Even more odd. Just as she reaches out to the local supe organizer, bad things start happening. Greta’s squad comes from England to save her—and ultimately the world as we know it—from disaster.
Grave Importance (Book #3)
When everything winds up in Dreadful Company, we think Greta and the squad can go back to regular life. While it’s more unique than my life, it still wouldn’t make for interesting escapist reading. Instead, Shaw puts Greta and her pals at the center of another existential crisis. This one includes Egyptology, mummies, anti-aging magic, and even a bit of devilish deviousness. Plus, we gain some new insights into the love lives of the friends, which is deliciously dramatic.
I love how Shaw draws from many sources to build her characters and plots. Sometimes it’s a literary or mythos reference. Other times it’s a bit of science spun into the unique universe she imagines. But the bottom line is that I like Greta, who lives with imposter syndrome like so many of us. She’s never quite sure she’s good enough to help the monsters in her clinical care. Much less save the universe. For me, that’s relatable and fun.
I’m definitely hoping for a fourth Dr. Helsing book, or maybe even a spinoff with Ruthven or another character. Shaw has a way with words that reads like a dream. Maybe an off-kilter, never quite imagined dream. But still, the books always go quickly for me. And that’s a good thing—until you come to the end of the series. <sad face>
Pair all three books in the series together, of course. Or combine with something that also combines literature, art, and humor like Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore.