Surprise, y’all! I’m back for more hatereading. When last we left Team Shit for Brains, they had just bumbled around a high-walled fort of some kind and been accosted by a terrible Manbearpigasaur. Pavel and Trocar tried to fight it and everyone else was generally useless, and they were saved by a woman who comes bursting out of the fort. It seems Manbearpigasaur’s name is Charles, and he’s the owner of the fortress-manor-house-thing. His wife is Dahlia.
Everything else further in the past is so fucking random and nonsensical it almost doesn’t bear recounting.
So at the beginning of this chapter, we’re introduced to Charles the Manbearpigasaur, who bears a Curse (again with the random capitalization) passed down through his family, who is “descended from the original Beast of Gavaudon [sic],” by which I can only assume she means the Beast of Gévaudan, a legendary maneating wolf creature in France. I understand spelling errors happen, but seriously? Gévaudan was an actual place. Like on a map. Presumably, Gryphon did enough research to at least read the first three lines of the Wikipedia article (like I did), but she couldn’t be arsed to spell it correctly, and her editor was so blinded by bitter tears and self-hatred that they couldn’t be bothered either. Lest I seem like I’m getting pedantic about a small error, I’ll remind you that such an error would be way more forgivable if these books didn’t already aggressively suck sweaty monkey balls.
At any rate, the curse on Charles’s family came from their involvement in the slave trade, when one of them kidnapped the grandson of a shaman. For whatever reason, the curse only affects male descendants every second generation. It’s actually pretty interesting stuff (if a bit random in places), but why the fuck is it here?
How much do you want to bet this has zero bearing whatsoever on the plot? Every time there’s something mildly interesting, I get my hopes up and then I’m cockblocked by the author’s complete inability to follow through. WHEN WILL I LEARN.
Gillian is already super invested in Charles’s plight, and it looks like we’ve stumbled into another situation where Gillian gets to be the worst therapist in the world. You know, I’d be fine with this, because I’m pleasantly surprised when Gillian actually gives a shit about anyone who isn’t herself, except that THEY’RE STILL BEING CHASED BY JACK THE RIPPER.
As a side note, Gillian and McNeill (the stick-up-his-ass fey-blooded detective who’s also there for no reason) apparently grok each other about this issue. I hate that I immediately wonder whether Gillian is going to end up in an awkward and unfulfilling UST situation (because she’s a One Vampire Woman now and she can’t bang anyone else because she Belongs to Aleksei) with him like she is with 90% of the men in this shit show.
I forgot that Gillian is actually injured, and holy god, she’s actually feeling it. And there are actual emotions. Could…could it be…she’s actually evolving?
She notes that “everyone [was] depending on her decision skills.“
Ah, so this moment of vulnerability predictably turns into fantasizing about Aleksei. I actually wouldn’t mind this if the narrative’s attempt to make her more emotionally vulnerable didn’t make her more vulnerable to a Trump-level abusive douchebag.
Long story short here, Gillian is starting to figure out that Charles is responsible for the murders in this region. I had to follow the erratic Hansel and Gretel plot bread trail back to figure out what the hell she’s talking about, and I remembered that they’re supposed take a detour on Scotland Yard’s behalf, because apparently there’s literally no one else to resolve this relatively minor issue in the middle of an ostensible vampire turf war.
Oh, yeah, did you forget about that war that’s supposed to be going on? ME TOO.
Gillian suspects that Charles is trying to commit suicide by “death by cop.” Dahlia confirms that Charles wants to die (which is stated repeatedly), and McNeill has this moment of observant brilliance:
“Death by cop?” Brant interjected. When Gillian and Helmut looked at him, surprise on their faces, he supplemented, “I do try to keep abreast of things, you know. It is my job.”
What a genius this guy is! They’ve only been talking about Charles being suicidal for like a page and a half.
Now we’re subjected to a pages-long treatise on Charles and Dahlia’s backgrounds as well as their marriage, because this is exactly what we should be doing and where we should be at 58% through the book. Charles’ family kept the curse a big secret, he didn’t discover it until after he and Dahlia married, Dahlia is a real trooper and a devoted wife because of course she is, and she serves no function except to be the humanizing feature for a bestial male character.
Dahlia offers them rooms, which they refuse for reasons unknown, and the chapter ends.
You know, this is not a bad chapter. In fact, narratively speaking, it’s not bad at all. If this were a different book.
Let’s review everything that’s happened in the book so far, shall we?
- Gillian and her team head to Russia to stop a child trafficking ring run by fucking Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
- They then end up in London and play in a haunted house for a while for no damn reason.
- Jack the Ripper turns up again out of the blue.
- Team Shit for Brains detours to France to investigate murders, and now she’s doing impromptu family therapy with a cursed wolf creature.
Jesus Christ, PICK A PLOT. Any plot. I’m starting to think Gryphon is only capable of brainstorming and beginning a halfway decent plot, but she can’t follow through. It’s like the book is a party and Gryphon is having a really good time, but then she leaves and gets carsick, and she has to ask the driver to pull over so she can hurl the plot into someone’s front yard. So far she’s forcefully ejected plots back and forth across Eurasia and shows no signs of slowing down.
Come on, book. We could’ve had something here. Maybe it would’ve been a Hot Pocket instead of a gourmet meal, but it would be something.