Yep, I reread it again.
Strange Practice is a delight of a book which grows (it seems to me, anyway) from a question: “What do monsters do when they get sick?” And then, “What kind of ailments would they have, anyway?” Greta Helsing (yes, a descendent of that Helsing) is a doctor who specialises in the diseases of the monstrous. Mummies with decaying bones, ghouls with depression, banshees with sore throats — and vampires with concerning stab wounds they somehow aren’t recovering from. Which is where the story starts, really, and from where Greta plunges into a fight to protect the monstrous of London.
The reason I find it so delightful is because it has so much heart. I know “hopepunk” is typically considered to be more on the scientific end of spec-fic, but this book fits the bill for me. It shouldn’t be radical when Greta says that it is her duty to help and heal the monstrous, regardless of what they have done. But it is — her caring is radical, and a message I think is deeply necessary when Britain is splintering in the way it is. Has probably always been necessary, because humans are far too prone to drawing sharp lines.
I also enjoy that Greta is a deeply capable doctor, and that she relies on the people around her to do things that aren’t medical. However much she wants to be a hero (or at least doesn’t want to be the one left behind wondering how the heroes are doing), her first priority is the importance she has in the community. She knows that if they lose her, they lose something they need, and so she accepts the need for her companions to go and face the Big Bad without her.
Speaking of her companions… it is also delightful to follow Sir Edmund Ruthven and Varney the Vampyre around modern London. I adore the way the book deals with their long lives — Varney with much melancholy and hibernation, Ruthven by learning new skills constantly. Including, for example, latte art. Also, he drove an ambulance during the Blitz. There are so many delightful details in the way Shaw brings these characters to life.
This was the third time I read this book, because I was feeling down and glum and needed to whole-heartedly enjoy something which wasn’t grim, or cynical, or angry. This was an excellent choice, once more, and I heartily recommend it.