It's no secret that I read a lot of books. But what most readers probably don't know is how, exactly, I go about choosing ones to feature in Shelf Awareness. There's no super computer behind the scenes. Just 25 years of experience, wisdom and, occasionally, luck.
Take Strange Practice (Orbit) by Vivian Shaw. I happened to be in the area of our office where books are received when Shaw's debut arrived. The cover, a nod to Edward Gorey, caught my eye. A bit risky on the publisher's part--Gorey doesn't appeal to everyone--which made me even more curious. I flipped the book over and found a rendered Rx pad, urging banshees, barrow-wights and mummies to seek out Dr. Greta Helsing, "a first-rate physician" trained to "help you with your unnatural affliction."
Clever cover and what sounded like not your run-of-the-mill plot. Enough to get me reading. As it turns out, Londoner Greta comes from a long line of supernatural medicine practitioners. "There had never been much doubt which subspecialty of medicine she would pursue, once she began her training: treating the differently alive was not only more interesting than catering to the ordinary population, it was in many ways a great deal more rewarding. She took a lot of satisfaction in being able to provide help to particularly underserved clients."
Shaw balances an agile mystery with a pitch-perfect, droll narrative and cast of lovable misfit characters. These are not your mother's Dracula or demons. Intent on living their own lives far from the prying eyes of humans, Greta's patients are suddenly threatened by a mysterious order of monks intent on ridding the world of monsters. The first in a planned series, Strange Practice is a super(natural) read. --Stefanie Hargreaves, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers