This Charming Man – CK McDonnell

“The hunger. The damned hunger.

Welcome to the offices of the Stranger Times newspaper, your first choice for all things paranormal, weird and wonderful. Werewolves on the M60? Haunted cinemas and demon-infested pubs? Read all about such things here!

But despite all the team’s experience with the supernatural, they weren’t really prepared for vampires – because they might be the one thing that doesn’t actually exist. At least, up until now.

I ended my review of the first book in this series, The Stranger Times, with the phrase, “I suspect [a sequel] will work a lot better purely by already having half the elements introduced” – and turns out I was very right! There’s far less of a sense of strain, everything flows in quite a chilled out manner. You probably don’t even have to have read the first book, although you will get more background. However, it’s nice to just let the characters get on with stuff. Their experiences might not be fun for them, but the whole thing is told with huge dollops of humour.

It helps, too, that I enjoy vampire stories and different takes on them. And this one is certainly different! For a start, in a world filled with weirdness, everyone – from faerie folk to evil immortals – agrees that vampires are just not a thing, they’re a story, a metaphor. But several attacks from be-fanged, blood-sucking creatures is suggesting otherwise.

The newspaper staff are dispersed to investigate, along the way dealing with other issues. Ex-husbands and new romantic interests who have an eyeball-on-a-stalk growing out of the top of their heads, for instance. Or the ghost of an almost former employee. Or, indeed, not knowing what kind of magical creature you yourself might be…

The author sets this tale not just in a newspaper office, but with elements of all kinds of the fantastical. The guy who can only speak the truth, the pub run – and patronised – by creatures of myth, and so much more. It does feel like the story has a ton more background, more myth and areas to explore, that okay yes some elements don’t get enough attention imo, but definitely leaves the door open for many more instalments. Bring ’em on!

NetGalley eARC: 320 pages / 64 chapters
First published: 17th February 2022
Series: Stranger Times book 2
Read from 22nd-29th January 2022

My rating: 8/10

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