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Literature / Beasts in Velvet

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Beasts in Velvet is the second of Kim Newman's novels set in the Warhammer universe, originally published under the name "Jack Yeovil". Although they are often known as the Vampire Genevieve series, Genevieve only appears as a minor character in this novel, which is entirely set in the Imperial capital of Altdorf, and centres around a Serial Killer.

A bloodthirsty serial killer known as "the Beast" is prowling the poverty-stricken dock district of Altdorf on foggy nights, savagely dismembering random women. The killer ends up being hunted by three oddly-assorted characters: Cowboy Cop "Filthy" Harald Kleindienst, nobleman Johann von Mecklenberg, who secretly fears that the killer may be someone very close to him, and forensic psychometrist Rosanna Ophuls. Meanwhile, the forces of Chaos seek to use the fear and outrage of the populace for their own political purposes.

Beasts in Velvet contains examples of the following tropes:

  • "Ass" in Ambassador:
    • The Cathay ambassador Dien Ch'ing is a nasty piece of work. However, he isn't really the ambassador, but a Cathayan Tzeentch cultist who murdered and impersonated him.
    • The Brettonian ambassador, the dwarven Compte De La Rougerie, has been deliberately selected as a none-too-subtle joke/insult against the Emperor, but, fortunately for the Compte, no-one who's figured it out has thus far had the nerve to explain the joke to his Imperial Majesty. It all gets a lot less funny when the comically lecherous dwarf starts looking like a possible candidate for the Beast.
  • Assassin Outclassin': A Dirty Cop tries to kill Kleindest. He fails, with an autopsy noting a crushed windpipe as the cause of death. The thirty-six bone fractures also inflicted on the would-be killer were merely complications.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Most of the watch on the Docks are lazy, corrupt and brutal, with no idea how to investigate serious crime beyond grabbing a random street person and beating a confession out of them.
  • Bomb Throwing Anarchist: The agitator Yevgeny Yefimovitch supposedly supports the working class but is actually a Tzeentch cultist. Given Tzeentch is the Chaos God of Change, a bit of class-war fuelled revolution is probably right up their alley - but with Yevgeny and his hand-selected pawns in charge of it, the chances that said revolution would end up improving anything for the poor of the Empire are effectively zero.
  • Calculator Spelling: Inverted. Elsaesser tries to write the name of his killer, but it's initially mistaken for a number code due to being read upside-down.
  • Changing of the Guard: Some significant characters in this were previously minor noble characters in Drachenfels.
  • Continuity Snarl: Gotrek & Felix and their adventures in Beastslayer are mentioned as contemporary events, but in that series Felix is explicitly too young to have ever met his favorite playwright Detlef in person.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Elsaesser writes the name of his killer in his own blood.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared with Drachenfels. The earlier book itself was pretty dark but contained much more comedy and much of it's darkness was of a high fantasy/gothic horror style. This book, while still having the traditional Warhammer puns is more cynical in tone and has more grounded, 'realistic' horror. Even Genevieve and (especially) Detlef are revealed to be more traumatised by their earlier experiences than the happy ending of Drachenfels suggested.
  • Dirty Mind-Reading: As an attractive woman with telepathic powers, Rosanna is frequently squicked out by accidentally picking up on men's sexual fantasies about her.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: All the Beast's victims.
  • Dying Clue: Elsaesser tries to write down the name of his killer while dying.
  • Expy: "Filthy" Harald Kleindienst is a blatant Expy of "Dirty" Harry Callahan. It's stressed in his very first scene, which has him intimidating a criminal by quietly explaining how deadly he is with his "Magnin" throwing-dagger.
  • Fainting Seer: Rosanna passes out the first time she reaches a murder scene, due to the intensity and unpleasantness of the emotional residue.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: It's particularly blatant in this that the Empire is the Holy Roman Empire, Bretonnia is Middle Ages France, Kislev is Middle Ages Russia, and Cathay is Imperial China. Not that the game manuals have been particularly subtle on those comparisons, exactly...
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Rosanna doesn't believe in the gods, largely due to being a telepath around the (rather cynically portrayed) Sigmarite priesthood.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Yefimovitch ends up being officially blamed for all the Beast murders, when he actually only killed Ulrike.
  • Genre Mashup: It mixes a Serial Killer Thriller with Fantasy.
  • Giallo: According to Word of God, the novel was inspired by this genre.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Although Chaos is involved in the novel, the actual murders are the crimes of a human serial killer, whose issues are the result of entirely naturalistic family cruelty.
  • Jack the Ripoff: Yefimovitch kills Ulrike, the "Angel of the Revolution", in Beast style to provoke a riot.
  • Mandatory Unretirement: Harald is reappointed as a watchman by Johann to investigate the Beast murders. Previously, he had been working as a security guard after being forced off the force due to a scandal when he killed an aristocrat who had been publicly chasing his escaped child Sex Slave with an axe.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: The relationship between Genevieve and Detlef is running into trouble in this novel due to issues with his aging and her immortality.
  • Murderers Are Rapists: Averted. One character even directly states that in his experience lust murders of that nature are "instead of" rather than "as well as" and often motivated partly by impotence.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: Throughout the novel, Johann's unstable brother Wolf is struggling with an animalistic Chaos taint, and Johann himself fears strongly that he is the murderer. It's actually someone else.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Beast is a blatant rewrite of the Jack the Ripper murders — the solution depicted in this novel has actually been raised by a couple of true-crime writers, although few found it likely.
  • Police Psychic: Rosanna Ophuls is an official police psychic who uses Psychometry to help identify criminals.
  • Psychic Powers: Rosanna has Psychometry and Touch Telepathy.
  • Raised as the Opposite Gender: The true killer, Leos, is actually a woman raised all their life as a man due to their narcissistic elder sister's jealousy. This drove them insane and caused them to develop a murderously misogynistic alternate personality.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised: Yefimovitch is secretly a Tzeentch cultist but even the 'normal' revolutionaries are portrayed rather cynically. Ulrike is insane, Prince Kloszowski is a preening narcissist and all of them express regret that the Beast hasn't killed more 'useful' victims than the prostitutes actually being murdered. Yefimovich even suggests they arrange such deaths to no objection from the others.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Elsaesser is killed by the Beast.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Rosanna Ophuls' surname is one to film directors Max Ophuls and his son Marcel.
    • The "old Kislevite play" The Strange Case of Doctor Zhiekhill and Mister Chaida, as Detlef describes it, is a blatant one to "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". That ends up being a Call-Forward, as Detlef Sierck ends up staging the play in another of Newman's stories.
    • "Angel of the Revolution" Ulrike is named after real-world German Red Army Faction member Ulrike Meinhoff.
  • Split Personality: Rosanna feels immediately she is called in that the murderer is one, which is correct.
  • Straight Gay: Leos is initially presented as this, but as a woman living as a man against their will and having a completely scrambled gender identity as a result taking male lovers may or may not count.
  • Take That!: The commander of the local watch is introduced as "Dickon of the Dock Watch", a nod to the idealised British cop show Dixon of Dock Green. However, Dickon is corrupt, thuggish and incompetent.
  • Teaser-Only Character: The first chapter follows a dockside prostitute and robber, until she becomes the Beast's latest victim.
  • Wolverine Claws: The killer uses these as a weapon.