Puxty displays paranormal romance and Boschian demonology through the lens of slapstick and surrealism to produce a story that is both amusing and thrilling. And provides a salutary warning to those who do not treat cats with the respect they are due.
Colt Harper is, by his own admission, the greatest of vampire cats; and, as he is by definition, always right, then he is the greatest of vampire cats. Unfortunately, he’s also the last surviving vampire cat. In addition, while any sensible being would clearly agree that killing someone for rubbing a cat’s fur the wrong way is an entirely proper act, the Council have made that – and most of the other things he enjoys – illegal. However, the Council will allow him one last chance to expiate his crimes before he’s sentence to an eternity of tedium: helping put on a single performance of community theatre. Which is as degrading as it sounds for a master vampire, and considerably more dangerous than expected.
While Colt describes himself as a vampire cat, he is actually a spirit that is strongly aligned with cats but possesses humans. As such, this novel is some distance from a feline version of Zoltan, Hound of Dracula. However, as the possession causes the victim’s body to gain claws and other minor feline traits, and he does consume blood, his claim is more than pretence.
While the story does not avoid the darkness inherent in a creature that will brutally murder someone for giving their cat the wrong brand of food, this book is more comedy than horror. Colt, and other monsters, face a mystically enforced parole system, complete with world-weary case officer, and the ultimate sanction of being sentenced to run backwards in a circle for all eternity. This inclination toward the absurd rather than visceral gives a feel akin to a Tom Holt novel, told from the perspective of the villains.
It is potentially this thread of melodramatic villainy that most risks losing reader sympathy. While, as with most protagonists, Colt changes over the course of the book, the first few scenes feature a joke that echoes the casual prejudice of a Seventies comedian so accurately that readers might well expect Colt to elbow someone in the ribs and say “Am I right?” after delivering it.
Having set up Colt as a selfish and prejudiced, but ultimately sympathetic, character, Puxty provides a pastiche of the classic paranormal romance plot: a supernatural being is forced to work alongside a woman that he finds overwhelmingly intriguing. Although this is laced with absurdist humour, readers who have encountered one to many selfish loners who turn out to have a tragic backstory and reasonable explanations for their rudeness might actually find a hero who appears selfish because he is selfish less comic than serious heroes.
However, this is not merely a parody of urban fantasy. Puxty successfully balances humour with challenge and conspiracy, making this equally engaging as a magical thriller.
Making full use of the perspective offered by an evil yet relatable protagonist, Puxty creates a supporting cast of monsters and humans who – rather than being defined by their virtues – are defined by the manner of their sins and their reactions to them: a werewolf wracked with guilt for a single slip, a tickle-demon who’s trying to go cold turkey, a nightmare who values petty vengeance over his own interests.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I recommend it to readers seeking humorous urban fantasy.
I received a free copy from the publisher with a request for a fair review.