The Fred the Vampire Accountant series was practically my introduction to Drew Hayes, one of my current favorites. It’s also one of the very few series in which I actually enjoy first-person narration. Deadly Assessments is installment number five, and while many things remain the same, there are some distinct differences. The novel is still structured as a series of closely related short stories, and short stories are not my favorite genre, but these I like. In this case, the adventures pick up right where the last novel left off, with Fred’s newly created House of Fred at the center along with his recent engagement to Krystal. The major thread that ties the set of stories together is that someone Fred defeated in the previous novel made a complain about his new House to the Blood Council, which are basically the vampires who supervise all vampires, which means the members have to be pretty old, very smart, and very strong, even for vampires. The Blood Council sends a member to evaluate Fred’s ability as a vampire to run his own House. If he fails the assessment, he and the members of his House will be destroyed. The assessor goes by the name Deborah, and while she’s pretty uninformative about her past, she gives away just enough to suggest there’s some pretty interesting stuff there.
Story 1 introduces Deborah and some of initial tests of Fred while he and a few pals are at a local trade show advertising his accounting firm while Krystal has just gone off on a personal mission. Story 2 has Fred and Deborah having to escape a building locked down by magic with a murderer chasing them. Story 3 starts with Deborah throwing Fred off a cliff for a survival test, and story 4 has Fred and some of the rest of the gang playing courier for Gideon and transporting a mysterious powerful object, and naturally very little goes as planned. The last story does include Deborah’s final judgement, but centers more on Fred and the rest trying to help Krystal get out of the Fey contract she had with her ex-fiancee, so she and Fred can freely marry.
The new thing I mentioned is that several of these stories are less ensemble pieces and more focused on Fred and some character development. Since Fred never had any kind of training or supervision as a new vampire, there’s a lot he doesn’t know about the supernatural realm and about his own abilities. Deborah notes this with some concern, and decides to teach Fred about being a vampire, which includes his learning things like how to drink blood from a living creature directly and the fact that he can at least temporarily gain the powers of another supernatural creature if he drinks from one. At first I wasn’t too sure I liked this focus, since it does mean less time of Fred and friends getting into trouble which is great fun. It also means that a few characters like Richard and Amy have little walk on bits, and nothing more which kind of feels like they’re only there because the author felt like favorites should have at least a moment, even if they don’t do much for plot. Upon further reflection, I have decided that the character development was probably worth the slight neglect of the ensemble fun; after all, Fred now has some more ability to work with and has some wedding planning to look forward to. I look forward to this event, since it most certainly will be a blast, hopefully not too literally.