What's refreshing about this wampyr tale is Bear's gimlet eye for true details rather than the romantic ones. Like this description, written as Jack leans in for a kiss from Irina: "In a poem, her lips would have been Chinese red as well, vermillion as the sunset sprawled across her canvases, but they were pale sienna like eggshells." In those moments that invert what you expect a vampire story to be, of which there are many in the book, including a moment that features a wampyr knitting, Bear makes this world feel solid and inhabited.
From Publishers Weekly:
... this is no mere costumed crime story: the czarist police employ forensic sorcerers, and vampires and their elegant "courts" of human hangers-on are accepted members of society. The pace is brisk, the characters are well realized, and the resultant delvings into darkness are certain to keep genre readers entertained to the end.
What I particularly like about Bear’s stories is that she does not stray from crafting tight mysteries to get sucked into the imagined seamier side of vamp life. There are relationships here, and she doesn’t shy away from them, but the main crux of the story is that someone was killed, someone was convicted of murder and executed for it, and now, years later, Sebastien learns that the truth has long been hidden.
Guess I'm doing okay so far.