Monday, June 13, 2011

The Bashful Vampire Murder and Comic Book Murders by Bob Frey

Bob Frey's tagline "double your pleasure, double your fun with a Frank Callahan Mystery Twofer" is certainly met in The Bashful Vampire Murder & Comic Book Murders, continuing the saga of mystery readers' favorite LAPD detective, Frank Callahan, who made his first appearance in 2009's The DVD Murders. Frank Callahan is back on the beat again to solve two curious cases: one involving a man claiming to be a descendant of the Van Helsing family, and the other that involves our favorite comic book characters.

The first story chronicles the investigation of a dentist who drove a stake through a civilian's heart, claiming that he was a vampire, continuing in his "family vocation" of killing "lamias," a European word for vampires. The dentist claims to have come from the Van Helsing family, the renowned vampire hunters. Callahan's department cannot help but wonder why "all the crazies always wind up in our playpen" as a trial unfolds that attempts to prove the existence of vampires through expert witness testimony, making a plea not of insanity, but rather of justifiable homicide. Much to Callahan's chagrin, the jury finds the evidence of vampires' existence substantial enough to result in a hung jury, causing him to embark on a personal mission to bring justice to the case and put the murderer behind bars.

Comic Book Murders opens on the discovery of a victim who has unusual chemical burns on his face, indicating severe frostbite, albeit inconsistent with his dry shirt and lack of any other traces of the chemical on his body; it has all of the hallmarks of a murder by the Dick Tracy character, Mr. Freeze, who froze his victims into a solid block of ice. This bizarre murder is only the first in a series of murders paralleling comic book stories; Frank Callahan must unravel the puzzling murders, which inevitably leads him to the unlikely killer.

Using witty dialogue, referencing everything from Bette Davis to Twilight, and putting all of the "crazies" in Callahan's "playpen," Bob Frey exhibits a unique and deft ability for interweaving the comical with the morbid. The Bashful Vampire Murder & Comic Book Murders are engrossing page-turners that will certainly leave readers anxious for the next installment of the Frank Callahan series.