Demonic elementals, vampires, krakens, werewolves, and other monsters aren't as mythical as many of us believe. They roam the English countryside, playing their games, fighting their wars, and claiming the souls of many humans. Although many deny their existance, the Church of England is not among the doubters. A special branch of the Church, headquartered at the College of St. Van Helsing, battles demons and attempts to save fallen humans before their souls are devoured. Author Vanessa Knipe spins us stories of the faculty and students of St. Van Helsing--of their successes and failures in this eternal battle.
In "Granny's Secret for Perfect Vegetables," one man's quest to win the county fair takes a dangerous turn when he relies on 'granny's secret.' The reason it's secret is that the kind of sacrifice it demands are beyond those approved by law or by Church. "In Rain Stopped Play," two professors are suddenly confronted with evidence of trapped elementals. In "The Camera Just Piles on the Pounds," St. Van Helsing student Mike tries out for a part time job as a model--in a modeling agency with very strange dietary habits. In "From Ghasties, and Ghoulies, and Long-Leggit Beasties..." tutor Dunkley, along with his wolfhounds, tries to save a man transformed to a werewolf. In "Going for the Burn," Mike, along with Dunkley and tutor Trewithick discovers that a local health club has found a way to take advantage of the athletic young visitors. In "Dancing Through the Nigh with You," student Dave discovers exactly how dangerous the fifth year exam can be. In "Say it with Flowers," Dunkley runs into Penny, a young woman with powers--and the ambition to become a witch-finder. In "Long Shadows of the Night," Mike learns a secret about computer monitors, and confronts truths he really would rather have avoided. In "Games People Play," Penny attends a speed dating party--where some of the dates are there for very different purposes. In "Night Watchman," Mike spots what looks like an old-fashioned Solstice party, complete with Wickerman--except the intended sacrifice isn't just wicker. In "Ghost Sun," a former tutor thinks he's found a way to return his late wife and son to life. In "Tricks of the Trade," a pair of young window salesmen learn that taking advantage of apparently foolish old ladies can be tricky indeed--especially if they have a Kraken in their back yard.
I found Knipe's writing to draw me into the story, with intriguing characters. Penny, in particular, seems to deserve a complete novel of her own, rather than the fleeting looks we get of her. Knipe's monsters draw on popular mythology while still being fresh, and the image of Dunkley's business card, adorned only with a single cross, left in the hands of his dead victims, is truly haunting.
I'm happy to recommend WITCH-FINDER. (Bonus question: do you know who St. Van Helsing is?)