By: Renee Hecht
If you’re in the market for a fast-paced thriller that you can ‘sink your teeth into’, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out 13 Bullets.
13 Bullets is the first book in the Laura Caxton series by David Wellington, which began as an internet serial in March 2006 and concluded when the 5th book came out in April of 2012. The series came to my attention though a friend. “There are vampires in it,” he said, “but they’re actual vampires. Monsters.”
After twilight’s popularity and the boom of paranormal teen romance, I was skeptical. For a very long time it felt like we were – pardon the pun – up to our necks in vampires. However, 13 Bullets proved to be a refreshing change of pace. Whereas many modern stories tend to paint vampires as alluring super-humans, Wellington shows us a less romantic depiction; bloodless white skin, pointed ears, hairless bodies, and glowing red eyes reminiscent of the grotesque, creature-like Nosferatu, as opposed to the allure and elegance of the Vampire Lestat. In this world, Vampires need to consume blood in order to retain their vitality. The older a vampire gets, the more blood it needs to consume. Equipped with massive, dagger-like teeth, hypnotic psychic abilities, nearly bullet-proof skin, and super natural strength, these creatures hunt down and eviscerate prey with ease.
Moreover, the way these creatures propagate breaks from the standard vampire lore. In order to turn a human, a vampire must psychically ‘infect’ that human with their curse – at which time, should the human commit suicide, they will rise again as a member of the bestial race.
The main character of the series is Laura Caxton, a Pennsylvania State Trooper who is drawn into a thrilling investigation after stopping what she thinks is a drunk driver at a routine checkpoint. She soon discovers that her mysterious perpetrator is actually a creature called a ‘half-dead’, a soulless, cowardly servant called up from the dead by a vampiric master.
She learns this after her case is picked up by Jameson Arkeley, a gruff “Special Deputy” with the US Marshalls service. Of course, Arkeley also informs Caxton that these half-deads do not last very long, meaning that there must be a vampire somewhere nearby. He recruits her as his partner and the two undertake the monstrous task of hunting down an apex predator.
Wellington does an excellent job snaring the imagination and giving new life and perspective to a genre many of us had given up as dead. The pacing of the story is unfalteringly quick, with character interactions and dialogue that feel authentic.
This is also one of the few non-romance series I have come across recently that does lgbt representation well. Caxton is a well-rounded character whose personality is both sympathetic and unique. She rehabilitates greyhounds, she likes her job, she finds driving relaxing, and she also happens to be a lesbian. She begins the story in a committed relationship with her girlfriend Deanna, and the two interact throughout the story in ways that are realistic and relatable.
If there is one criticism I have for 13 bullets, it is that the ending is so frustrating that I immediately had to move on to the second book. The series itself takes a few unexpected turns and spans a number of genres, but the conclusion of the final installment is satisfying, and Caxton’s character arc builds compellingly and consistently over the course of all five books.