Title: Hell's Belle
Author: Karen Greco
Publisher: Self published
Release date: July 2013
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Description: Half vampire, half human, Nina Martinez spent most of her life underground as part of an elite secret team of government agents that quietly take down rogue monsters, the human world none the wiser. She moves back to her hometown of Providence, RI to keep an eye on the recent uptick in supernatural activity, and to help run the bar she co-owns with her aunt.
Her attempt at a “regular” life, not to mention a budding relationship with smoking hot FBI agent Max, is cut short because of a string of ritual murders targeting the city's community of witches.
But Nina's investigation unearths deadly secrets from her long buried parents. Now the target of supernatural assassins, could Nina be the most dangerous vampire hybrid to ever exist? No wonder she can’t get a date.
My thoughts: The story starts (after a prologue which I'll talk about in a minute) with Nina working in a bar in Providence. A cute guy comes in, but she's quickly distracted by the guy who snarls at her then tries to slit her throat. Thankfully, since Nina is part vampire, she heals quickly enough that it doesn't cause a big problem, and in the chaos, the cute guy turns out to be a cop, working for the FBI. By the end of chapter one, I was hooked.
Apart from the attack on her in the bar, there are also several gruesome murders in the city. Nina investigates, and discovers that a blade used in the attacks looks the same as the one the vampire attacked her with at the bar. Even more interesting, she owns a blade that looks almost the same, which was given to her by her late father. She begins to try tracking the killer vampire across the city, amidst a turbulent relationship with Max, the FBI guy. (Do they want to date, or is she a suspect in his investigation? And the classic, what if he finds out the truth about her?)
There were a couple of things I didn't like in this book. The prologue was interesting: we see Nina fighting off some vampires with the help of Frankie, her best friend & also a vampire. You get a lot of information about why they are killing these vampires and the situation in that city (Newark). I enjoyed reading it, thinking it was set up for the main story. However, no. Nothing about these vampires or the situation in Newark links in with the rest of the story at all. Yes, it gives you an idea of what her usual monster-hunting job involves, but I think you could get enough of an idea about that from the rest of the story. As it became clear that the prologue wasn't actually going to tie in with the main story, I got more irritated - it really didn't need to be there at all.
There were also the inevitable phrases here and there which I stumbled over and think would have been different in a traditionally published novel. However, there were fewer than in other self-pubbed books I've read, and I believe the sequel will be even better. I couldn't find any information about when it comes out, but I'll definitely be reading it when it does turn up.
I really enjoyed this book, and how refreshing it is to have vampires who are actually creepy and more like monsters. Some of the other monsters I won't spoil you about were also very good, very creepy.
Overall, I found Karen Greco's "Hell's Belle" to be an exciting urban fantasy murder mystery story, stepping away from the romanticising of 'monsters'. I give it 7/10.