What is this about?: Greta Helsing is the relative of exactly who you’re thinking of right now, the family has long since dropped the Van from their name. And, now, she’s a doctor to the undead. The half-dead. Or ghoulish. And, in this instance, when something seems to be roaming London killing her patients, it’s to Greta that her patients turn, and she turns to a very unique support system.
What else is this about?: An introduction to the people or vampires or vampyres and something else entirely, that will surround Greta in this series.
Blurb: Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.
Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.
Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.
The first thing you have to understand about Strange Practice is that mercifully, Greta likes her job. Adores her patients and dives straight into helping them… all of which means, there are no chapters about how she’s not sure if she wants to be a doctor, help her patients etc etc. Greta is the one her patients go to for help, and she steps up.
The book begins with Greta being called to help a vampire, Varney, by an old friend of her father’s — another vampire called Ruthven. Varney was attacked in his home by chanting monks hell bent on killing him, but they don’t succeed (obviously). Instead the attack bears similarities to murders through London over the last couple of weeks. Ruthven calls Greta to come tend to him and from there, the book’s story truly begins.
Greta is not the usual age of your protagonists in books like this. She’s a doctor, with all the years of study and work that implies, before she took over her father’s surgery. She’s been practicing for a couple of years already, and her reputation in this world is already well-established. There was no time wasted on showing us why she belongs in this world, while she denies it herself — she’s there, this is her world and she’s damn proud of her reputation.
That said, Shaw gives her a chance to be surprised in this world, to find some mysteries in it still, which I appreciated.
Her team, so to speak
While the story might have started with Varney‘s attack, it’s through Ruthven that August Cranswell comes in. He works at the conservation department of the British Museum, and provides the research that gets them started on finding out who the hell these monks are. Then, there’s Fast (AKA Fastitocalon), an intriguing addition that is most interesting to me. He is an enigma, with powers no one has seen before.
Together, this group prove to be a very refined investigation into the monks’ attacks, and towards an unexpected ending.
The attraction of this series is the interplay with these characters, who let us into this fascinating world. I like Shaw’s worldbuilding, and the potential it has for the rest of this series. I think perhaps, while Greta is a great way into this world, she isn’t entirely the focus of the book.
This book is very much a team effort, but readers needed way into this world and that’s why we have Greta. She’s a superb choice, but pales next to the other characters in some ways. I hope the rest of the series reflects the importance of each character as we learn more about them.