They can be killed only by destroying their hearts, which is difficult to do because their skin is rock hard and impervious to most weaponry. In the early years of their vampire existence, they maintain a high level of physical beauty, but as they age, their bodies deteriorate. Here is Laura's description of an aged vampire: "The vampire jumped up onto the jagged lower edge of the broken window...His skin was the color of cold milk, his eyes red and dully glowing. He had no hair anywhere on his body, and his ears stood up in points. His mouth was full of row after row of sharp teeth....His body was emaciated,...thinner than any human being she'd ever seen. His skin stretched tight over prominent bones, and the muscles on his arms and legs were wasted away to thin cords. His ribs stuck out dramatically, and his cheeks were hollow with starvation. His skin was dotted with dark patches of decay and in some places had cracked open in weeping sores." (from 99 Coffins)
And one last bravo: The cover art is fang-tastic! Kudos to Barbara Sturman for her chilling head shots. It's hard to choose, but I believe that the gaping, sharp-fanged maw that adorns 99 Coffins is my favorite.
NOVEL 1: 13 Bullets
Who is the missing vampire? Does he have access to the 99 hearts that, if placed back in the bodies of their owners, could reanimate an entire bloodthirsty army? How did the vampires end up there, undisturbed and undiscovered for 150 years? The answer lies in Civil War documents that contain sinister secrets about the newly found coffins—secrets that Laura Caxton is about to uncover as she is thrown into a deadly, gruesome mission of saving an entire town from a mass invasion of the undead.
NOVEL 3: Vampire Zero
One man stood between them and us. U.S. Marshal Jameson Arkeley—the country’s foremost authority on vampires—taught police investigator and vampire fighter Laura Caxton everything she knows about monsters. After a bloody war visited upon Gettysburg by an army of vampires, Arkeley gave up his own life to save others. Except he didn’t exactly die...
Laura is all alone now, facing the most dangerous vampire of her career. She's always been willing to give up her life to end the threat—but fate has other sacrifices in mind. This book features the final showdown between Laura and Arkeley. We've been awaiting this confrontation since book 1, and its everything I hoped for.
NOVEL 4: 23 Hours
A loose end from Vampire Zero is picked up when Arkeley's surviving son, Simon, makes an appearance at Laura's hide-out and gets involved in the proceedings. To move the plot along, Wellington has Clara make a number of annoyingly inept decisions, but for me, that was the only weakness in an otherwise well-conceived plot.
By now, Laura has made a full transition from the inexperienced and naive state trooper of 13 Bullets to the persecuted prisoner of 23 Hours to the less-than-human vengeance machine of this book. She has no time for her human side—no emotions, no love, and no regretful memories. The sole purpose of her existence is what she sees as the final event in her life: her destruction of Malvern, once and for all—accompanied by her own death. Here, she explains this to Clara: "I do this...because somebody has to....I do this because Malvern is...evil and the world can't handle evil things. It always underestimates them. It always thinks that if it just pretends the bad things don't exist, then they'll just go away. The world functions by denial and wishful thinking, and that's why the world runs red with blood. I do it so people can keep being stupid and not have to pay for it. So people can be weak and it's not a death sentence. I do it...because nobody else can."
Here is an unforgettable verbal portrait of Justinia Malvern as she leads her climactic attack on Laura and the other mortals on the witchbillies' mountain: "Her skin...seemed illuminated by a spectral lambency as if a spotlight was focused right on her. She was wearing a white gown that flickered as if it were licked by gentle flames....She wore an eye patch over her empty socket, a black triangle of silk emblazoned with a red heart. Her one remaining eye burned down on the clearing like a laser beam. She was not touching the ground. Her bare feet pointed downward and cleared the earth by a good foot and a half. She was floating down the mountain, her hands lightly outstretched at her sides. There was a smile of utter benevolence, of pure compassion on her lips." Talk about nightmarish visions!
32 Fangs is a terrific finale for a fine series as we empathize with Clara, Simon, and, especially, Laura—all damaged irrevocably, albeit in different ways, by their associations with Malvern. Wellington is inventive in the way he gathers the surviving characters in one place to set up the final confrontation and loops the key element in the story—the titular 32 fangs—directly back to Congreve, the very first vampire Laura ever met (and killed). Right down to the final moments, we can't predict what choices Laura will make as she faces down her undead enemy. Although this book could be read as a stand-alone, I strongly recommend that you start back at the beginning of the series because Laura's long, emotional history with Malvern is extremely important to an understanding of her character.