Book Review: The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Gallery Books (7/28/15)
Author Information: Website
Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
So the other day I was having this conversation with another blogger about what makes us give a book 5 stars. Admittedly, my own reasons can be pretty nebulous and oftentimes the finer details can differ from a lot of others’ “criteria”, but ultimately I think it always comes down to the question: Did the book blow my mind? Maybe the author impressed with some crazy unique ideas, or made me see something in a whole different light. Or maybe the book touched my emotions in some way, destroyed my feels and left me blubbering like an idiot.
Or maybe sometimes, like in the case of The Fifth House of the Heart, the reasons don’t have to be either cerebral or emotional. Maybe I just want to give a book 5 stars because it was just so damn fucking fun. DEAL WITH IT!
Seriously, though. Horror, humor, and a heist all in one? I couldn’t have asked for more. Say what you want about vampires being a tired old trope, but they can still be pretty terrifying, especially when you have an author who knows how to portray them like the monsters that they are—the way they’re meant to be. Next, throw in a motley group of mercenaries led by a septuagenarian antiquities dealer, our rather zany protagonist who is as motivated by his desire to rid the world of vampires as he is by the opportunity to get his hands on some of their priceless loot.
For you see, vampires are as bad as dragons when it comes to hoarding; they have an obsession for the past as well as an eye for expensive, beautiful, and exquisitely crafted things. Unfortunately, they are also fiercely attached to their possessions and will guard them with as much fervor. This is precisely how Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang draws the attention of a vampire at an antiques auction, after barely winning a bidding war for an ormolu clock. But Sax is no stranger to vampires, having profited greatly from a couple of run-ins with them in the past. So when the clock is later stolen from his warehouse, leaving the watchman on duty brutally murdered, Sax knows only one thing can be responsible. Determined to settle the score, he travels to the Vatican to assemble a crack team of vampire hunters to counter this new threat—and hopefully to make another fortune while he’s at it.
Everyone in this book is a character, in the sense that they all possess interesting and notable traits or personalities. First there’s Fra Paolo, the guileless monk admiringly described by the openly gay Sax as a dark, handsome young “piece of Italian beefcake.” Next is Min, a small innocuous-looking Korean woman who just happens to be one of the deadliest, most frighteningly accomplished vampire killers in the world–and the sanest one the Vatican could come up with on short notice. Rock is the team’s muscle, an ex-US Army Special Forces guy who is as rugged and strong as his name suggests. Gheorghe plays the role of the rogue, a Romanian burglar who moonlights as a street acrobat in between bank heists. Then there are the unwitting additions to the crew, those who just happened to fall into this deadly caper by happy circumstance: Nilu, the Bollywood actress who became a vampire victim; Emily, Sax’s concerned niece who trails her uncle to Europe; and finally, Abingdon the British blacksmith/professional jouster whose impeccable physique and devastatingly good looks make him popular with the ladies at Ren Faires all across the continent.
Hard to imagine a more dubious or random group of people getting together to slay monsters, but there you are. But of course, the most interesting and entertaining one of all is Sax, the leader of this jolly band and the one who holds everyone together. Sax is one of the best protagonists I’ve read in years, a man of contrasts if I’ve ever seen one. I can’t decide whether he’s closer in type to the gentle elderly man who gives smiles to children in the park, or to the crotchety one who brandishes his cane at them from his porch yelling “Get off my lawn!” In truth, he’s probably both in equal parts.
One thing is certain though: this novel owes a lot of its greatness to Sax. Certainly, his wry and wicked sense of humor is a huge part of it; I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. Throughout the book, Sax will say all sorts of scandalous or outrageously inappropriate things but you’ll still find yourself busting a gut without feeling too guilty about it because he reminds you of your 100-year-old eccentric grandpa. Plus, the guy has already survived two vampire attacks, and yet even now he’s preparing to charge headlong into another. RESPECT. I could only hope to be so spritely when I’m pushing eighty.
You might have noticed by now that I haven’t talked much about the plot – and I’m not going to. Because as with most heist stories, the less you know about the novel before you read it the better. The less you know about the vampires in this book the better too, but I just want to say how much I loved Tripp’s return to the ruthless, bestial portrayal of these creatures while still giving it a refreshingly unique twist. The Fifth House of the Heart will remind you that vampires are monsters. They don’t love you. They want to kill you.
So if you want some terrifyingly good entertainment, read this book. What an uproarious mix of thrills and chills! Needless to say, I enjoyed it thoroughly, from the first page to the last!