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Tall, Dark & Dead: Nobody's Perfect    by Tate Hallaway order for
Tall, Dark & Dead
by Tate Hallaway
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Garnet Lacey's ordinary life is shattered in a heartbeat when Vatican assassins destroy her coven. She is so enraged over her sisters' senseless slaughter that she reaches deep within herself and summons the goddess Lilith to exact retribution. Her vampire boyfriend Parrish helps her clean up the mess and afterwards they decide it's best to part ways. Garnet heads to Madison, Wisconsin where she sets up an occult bookshop and changes her look, figuring that the best way 'to keep the witch hunters off your scent is to dress to kill' as a 'Goth chick Poseur'. So far, her ruse has worked and as long as she swears off any sort of witchcraft she figures she's safe. But getting rid of her inner goddess is another story entirely - bloodthirsty Lilith enjoys residing in Garnet's body, and each time she awakens, she reminds Garnet she can't control her forever.

When a tall, dark and incredibly good-looking dead guy enters Garnet's shop, her witch radar goes on high alert. Her hormones also do a major happy dance, much to her annoyance. Why is she always attracted to the dead ones!?? There's never any future with them!! But she ignores this inner dialogue and goes out of her way to help Sebastian Von Traum track down some 'mandrake, a whole root ... harvested by the new moon ... best if from the crossroads' and even more precious if 'grown under a gallows'. She's dying to know why Mr. Von Traum needs this particularly potent ingredient, and equally eager to learn why he's got no aura. Garnet's various overtures about 'being hungry' and 'really needing a cup of coffee' finally sink in and the rather distracted Von Traum asks her out on their first date.

And that's when the fun really begins. Garnet discovers that Von Traum is an ancient vampire who brought his affliction upon himself via alchemical experimentation. Worse, he's got a wife whom he failed to turn, and who's mouldering between true death and eternal resurrection. Even more disconcerting - Von Traum's dhampire son hates daddy's guts for what he did to mommy and is working in league with the The Order of St. Eustace assassins to subdue dear old dad and steal his formula for their own sinister purposes. Problem is, Sebastian doesn't quite remember the recipe - it's been a thousand years - and if he doesn't figure out how to fix himself very soon, he'll disappear in a puff of dust. Garnet knows she should run the other way; who needs to get involved with a guy with a whole slew of issues, not to mention Vatican assassins watching their every move? But she's not running this time and Sebastian is one dead guy she'll die to protect.

It's always fun to find a new author with a fresh voice, and who takes an unpredictable approach with her plot and characters. Tate Hallaway has done just that in Tall, Dark & Dead. Garnet is a wonderfully quirky and complex heroine whose character becomes even more multifaceted as she struggles to contain Lilith and find some normalcy. Sebastian isn't your typical dark and brooding vampire protagonist either, as his worldview and his rather bizarre family background attest. There's also a real modern and edgy tone to this book, not to mention colorful splashes of humour, especially when Garnet veers off into inner dialogues that warn her not to get herself (or her various weird friends) involved in more trouble - but she does anyway. Tall, Dark & Dead is a great start to what I think will become an exciting and highly entertaining new series.

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