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Laura Caxton is the heroine of David Wellington's Laura Caxton vampire series. The pentalogy includes 13 Bullets (2006), 99 Coffins (2007), Vampire Zero (2008), 23 Hours (2009), and 32 Fangs (2012). Although Laura is an attractive young woman and a lesbian, this is not a sexy vampire series. Vampires in this world are creepy, hairless albinos with pointy ears and more sharklike teeth than can fit in a human mouth. They're more likely to rip off your arm or head to drink your blood instead of piercing your neck daintily with a couple of enlarged canines.

Since you're unlikely to survive being eaten intact, it's fortunate (for the vampires) that vampirism isn't transferred by blood. Instead, the curse is transferred psychically through the silent ritual. Some people can fall for it instantly, but others like Laura can resist for hours. In either case, the victim has to commit suicide to rise as a vampire the next night. You kill them by destroying the heart, though you don't need a Wooden Stake to do so. In fact, there's almost no hope that a wooden stake could pierce a vampire's chest in this series.

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The series features a mix of fantasy and real-world elements, as Laura employs the aid of magic charms and psychics in addition to her use of guns and other modern devices.


Tropes found in the series:

  • All Therapists Are Muggles: Basically defied, as people are aware that vampires are real but characters can't visit therapists for more standard reasons, such as Laura being either busy at work or on the run from the law and Simon Arkeley running out of money to pay his bills after his father became a vampire, turned his sister, and then they both tried to turn or kill Simon.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: 99 Coffins ends with Arkeley becoming a vampire himself, with Vampire Zero looking at his subsequent attacks on his own family as he succumbs to his vampire instincts.
  • Batman Gambit: The conclusion of 23 Hours reveals that Malvern had been playing one with Caxton, making the situation just challenging enough that Caxton would think it was genuine while providing weapons and unlocked doors in just the right places to redirect Caxton where Malvern wanted her to go when she wanted Caxton to get there, with the final goal of tricking Caxton into thinking she's killed Malvern when she actually just killed a decoy (although the last part of the plan didn't work).
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  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Vampire Zero explores Arkeley's new activities as a vampire, as he uses his knowledge to subvert Laura's attempts to hunt him.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Bloodier and gorier than most vampire fiction; Caxton in particular takes various injuries to her arms at least once per book, ranging from the arm being explicitly broken to getting bits of metal stuck in it.
  • Blood Lust: All vampires have it. Few vampires can stop themselves from feeding if there is human blood available, a fact which Laura uses to save herself more than once by driving an intelligent foe into an unthinking frenzy, ranging from provoking a vampire into breaking a cage and giving Caxton a weapon to even luring her mentor-turned-enemy Jameson Arkeley into a position where he would fall into a fiery pit after losing his grip.
  • Chekhov's Gun: During Vampire Zero, Caxton receives a new weapon that is similar to her old one but includes a slightly larger magazine. This change proves useful in the final confrontation, as she is able to shoot Arkeley's now-vampire daughter Raleigh because she and Arkeley assumed that they had deprived Caxton of all her bullets when in fact she still had one left in the gun.
  • Creepy Child: Even before she was a vampire, Malvern was twisted; a flashback in 32 Fangs reveals that when she was seven, Malvern tricked her father into killing her uncle by claiming that her uncle had molested her (without even fully understanding what she was accusing him of) simply because her uncle wouldn't give her candy.
  • Cynical Mentor: More than once Arkeley drives Caxton to get involved by forcing her to face how things will be if she does nothing.
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: Vampire Zero explicitly explores how Arkeley's remaining human affection for his family has been corrupted by his vampire side's loathing of that part of himself.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The prologue to 13 Bullets features Jameson Arkeley exclusively, as does the summary on the back cover. One would almost suspect Laura of being this, given that she plays Robin to Jameson's Batman through most of the book.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells:
    • In Vampire Zero, Caxton is provided with confiscated armour-piercing bullets that she is able to use to kill Arkeley's daughter after the other woman becomes a vampire.
    • In 32 Fangs, Caxton's allies are able to use vampire teeth in shotgun pellets for the final confrontation with Malvern.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: 23 Hours is Die Hard in a prison . . . with vampires!
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While Malvern will play psychological games with her enemies, Caxton muses at one point that Malvern is at least never cruel when she makes the final kill.
  • Eye Scream:
    • As the most obvious example, Justinia killed herself to become a vampire by shooting herself in the head, simultaneously destroying her left eye.
    • In Vampire Zero, Caxton is able to hurt Arkeley by shining her gun's laser targeting beam in his eyes, his vampiric vision so vulnerable to bright light that what would blind a human for a few moments basically destroys Arkeley's eyes, helping Caxton lure him into a trap.
    • In 23 Hours, Malvern gouges out the eye of her current human 'ally' when the other woman keeps questioning her tactics, although this is later revealed to have been part of Malvern's long-term plan to fake her death by making the other woman look like her.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Jameson Arkeley becomes a vampire for noble reasons but embraces the beast completely before long.
  • Fingore: Arkeley loses most of the fingers on one hand in the first book.
  • For Science!: At least two people are willing to try and talk with vampires in the hopes that the vampires will tell them about the history they have experienced, not comprehending that vampires want nothing more than to feed and kill.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: 32 Fangs sees three of Caxton's allies give their lives to delay Malvern long enough for Caxton to lure her into a trap.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: In 99 Coffins, Arkeley becomes a vampire so that he can destroy the titular 99 reborn vampires by himself, believing that he could control himself enough to return and be killed after they were all dead. He succeeds in killing the other vampires, but subtly succumbs to his instincts afterwards.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: A brief example in 32 Fangs, when Malvern briefly shows Caxton 'visions' of a world where she never worked with Arkeley (and thus Louisiana is being attacked by vampires while Caxton lives in peace with Clara) and another world where Caxton was turned by Malvern, and is shown killing Arkeley as he tries to hunt the vampire Caxton with Clara.
  • Lesbian Vampire: Laura's partner becomes a vampire in 13 Bullets.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: One scene sees Justinia muse that Arkeley sees Caxton as his spiritual daughter.
  • Looks Like Orlok: After humans become vampires, they basically assume this look, although some have been known to try and tear the tips of their ears off.
  • Mentor Ship: Arkeley's ex-wife accuses Laura of having this with him after Arkeley becomes a vampire, apparently ignorant of the fact that Laura is a lesbian. Caxton briefly wonders if Arkeley did have those kind of feelings for her and just never brought them up because he knew it was pointless, although a scene from Malvern's perspective suggests that Arkeley just saw Caxton as his spiritual daughter.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Vampires have mouthfuls of sharklike teeth. Older vampires may have lost or broken some, but even after centuries of undeath, they have more than enough to bite off your limbs. Ultimately Subverted when later Retcons state that this is actually just an extension of the vampires' ability to create illusions and hypnotise others making themselves appear more dangerous.
  • The Neidermeyer: Deputy Marshal Fetlock at least hovers on the edge of being this. Caxton's allies Clara Hsu and Officer Glauer acknowledge that Fetlock's adherence to the rules isn't a bad thing in itself, and respect that he would have accepted his own sentence if he was ever brought up on the charges that led to Caxton being arrested, but his adherence to the law prevents him from recognising that his strategies won't work when dealing with Malvern; his determination to keep his troops alive just means that Malvern is killing innocent civilians instead, his refusal to believe Caxton when she claims Malvern isn't dead gave her foe two years to make a new plan, and when he finally tries to go after Malvern he gets his entire team killed because he relied on a show of force rather than ask Caxton to help out.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In Vampire Zero, Glauer, Caxton's current deputy, inadvertently provides recovering drug addict Raleigh Arkeley with access to drugs, which she uses to overdose herself and thus trigger her transformation into a vampire.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Vampire Zero ends with Caxton being arrested after she killed Arkeley (although this is because she basically tortured a suspect to get the information she needed rather than because she killed Arkeley).
  • Noble Demon: In contrast to Malvern, flashbacks in 32 Fangs reveal that her sire saw himself as an 'angel of death' in the sense that he only went after those who may have wanted to die in some way, such as those suffering a terminal illness.
  • Obsolete Mentor: Arkeley comes to feel like this in 99 Coffins due to his lost fingers and old age on top of the other injuries he has sustained over the years.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Deputy Marshal Fetlock may have created the task force focused on hunting Malvern, but his focus on making sure the department looks good for the public and their superiors means that he doesn't push the team hard enough to actually catch up with Malvern, so focused on protecting his team that he's 'content' to wait for Malvern to make a mistake even as that means innocent people die instead.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires 'die' at dawn, rotting away to a pool of deliquescent flesh, which is why they need a coffin or another container. While in this state, their heart can be removed and destroyed easily. If the heart is removed without being destroyed, it can be replaced later (over a century later in 99 Coffins) and the vampire will be resurrected as normal at dusk. Vampires are at their strongest on the night they rise and also become weaker as they age, requiring more and more blood to maintain a lifelike body. The primary antagonist of the series, Justinia Malvern, is over 300-years old, and spends most of the books as a skeletal corpse in a coffin, barely able to move a finger to communicate by typing (her larynx has rotted away); it is estimated that she would need six gallons of blood a night just to walk on her own.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Never explicitly termed 'zombies', but the parallels are obvious; vampires can reanimate some humans as 'half-deads', who are essentially living corpses who retain some of their knowledge and personality, but such a transformation is so abhorrent to the subject's body and soul that half-deads can only exist in that state for about a week before they die again for real.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Part of the transformation into a vampire involves the subject being compelled to kill themselves; Arkeley and Caxton each received the curse at different points, and each acknowledge that they will become vampires after death if they kill themselves.
  • The Renfield: There are a few cases of this, ranging from people who have been manipulated into feeling 'sorry' for Justinia's withered condition, or people who just want the power of being a vampire; her main minion in 23 Hours is dying of terminal colon cancer and prefers the extra life she'll have as a vampire over the natural death awaiting her if she does nothing.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: 99 Coffins sees the discovery of the titular coffins, each one containing a vampire that has had its heart removed towards the end of the American Civil War; since the hearts have not been destroyed, the vampires can still be brought back to life.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Suggested with Malvern, as she consistently writes and speaks in an old-fashioned style of 'Ye' or 'Thou' rather than more modern terms.
  • Spot the Impostor: In 23 Hours, one of the reasons Caxton identifies the fake Malvern is that she often slips from using Malvern's usual old-fashioned linguistic terms.
  • Staking the Loved One: Laura has to do this more than once, whether directly shooting them in the heart or through other methods.
  • Tear Off Your Face: When a vampire brings a victim Back from the Dead, the psychological trauma of the event causes the revived person to rip their own face to shreds.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the end of the fourth book, 23 hours, it's heavily implied that the body that the police thought was Malvern is really one of the inmates turned into a vampire. 32 Fangs confirms that Malvern survived again.
  • Theory Tunnelvision: In 23 Hours, when Malvern is leaving large numbers of victims without any sign that she's turning more vampires or creating half-deads, Fetlock focuses on the idea that this means she's running scared, when even Clara- the member of the team with the least direct experience with vampires- knows that Malvern must have a plan, even if she can't guess what that plan might be. In 32 Fangs, while he eventually concedes that Malvern isn't dead, Fetlock's actions still result in large numbers of deaths as he tries to deal with her forces by the methods he believes will work rather than take advantage of Caxton's expertise.
  • Training from Hell: Arkeley's 'training' of Caxton basically serves as this as he basically gives her enough facts to avoid getting instantly killed while leaving her to work out some of the finer details such as how to stop a vampire in the heat of the moment.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Marshall Fetlock falls victim to this in 32 Fangs, assuming that he can lure Malvern into a trap and destroy her with sheer firepower, not acknowledging that Malvern is dangerous because she's smart.
  • Vampire Bites Suck: Vampire feeding is extremely bloody.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The legal debates around this question are basically the reason Justinia wasn't executed decades ago; while nobody had a problem with Arkeley killing her servant, even though he was walking and talking, when he was actually killing people, they chose to keep Justinia alive and in captivity because they had no evidence that she'd ever attacked anyone herself. Ultimately ended in Vampire Zero, when her role in Arkeley's transformation deprives her of her legal protection, unfortunately after she has escaped captivity.
  • Would Hurt a Child: From a certain perspective, although the only child we see explicitly 'suffer' is when a vampire brings a long-dead baby back as a half-dead as part of the latest twisted 'game' with Caxton.
  • Your Vampires Suck: Vampires are ridiculously tough. The first vampire kill is done by trapping it under a ditch witch, then using a jackhammer to break through its chest and destroy its heart. The more blood they drink, the stronger they become, healing wounds instantaneously, though they do become slower if they gorge themselves.

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