Kitty's Big Trouble (Kitty Norville, Book 9)
by Carrie Vaughn
Cover Artist: Craig White
Review by Cathy Green
Tor Books Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765365651
Date: 28 June 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
It is fitting that I should be reading Kitty's Big Trouble and writing this review while on a trip to San Francisco to visit my brother, as the ninth and newest of the Kitty novels takes place primarily in San Francisco, with a short detour to Dodge City, Kansas. The novel opens with Kitty Norville trying to find out how to exhume Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman so she can test his DNA for lycanthropy. Her efforts are unsuccessful, but a discussion with Rick the Master Vampire of Denver results in Kitty, Ben, and Cormac taking a road trip to Kansas to find out if Wyatt Earp was a vampire hunter.
When they get to Kansas, they find the remains of a burned dwelling that would seem to confirm the rumors that Earp had burned out a vampire nest, and they get attacked by a very old decrepit vampire that apparently had been hiding in the cellar ruins ever since. They quickly stake the vampire, who was wearing an odd Roman coin talisman that they decide to take with them. Then they run into local pack that they didn't know was there and get asked to leave, but not before one of the younger members asks for Kitty's autograph. Almost as soon as they get back to Denver, Anastasia (last seen in Kitty's House Of Horrors) asks for their help in San Francisco, without specifying much other than it involves Roman and the Long Game, so off they go on another road trip.
Almost immediately upon arriving in San Francisco, they are attacked by Roman's hired muscle werewolves and Ben loses his shirt and has to buy a tacky tourist shirt in what becomes a running gag throughout the rest of the book as Ben keeps losing his shirt due to wolfing out and/or getting attacked, and having to replace it with what he considers less and less suitable shirts. It turns out Anastasia wants them to help her find the Dragon's Pearl before Roman does, as it is some sort of arcane item of power that acts as a Horn of Plenty and cannot be allowed to fall into Roman's hands. And in typical vampire fashion, Anastasia treats them more as her hired muscle than as colleagues, something Kitty is not about to put up with.
In order to find the Dragon's Pearl, they have to search the tunnels under Chinatown, which required the services of a guide, Grace Chen, whose family has some sort of obligation to Anastasia and are involved in guarding the Pearl. Grace has some sort of magical ability, as she recognizes that Cormac has two spirits. Cormac's spirit hitchhiker Amelia comes in handy as the Pearl has gone missing and Amelia has the arcane knowledge that can be used to find it. Along the way they meet up with the local vampire family and confront both Roman and several figures from Chinese mythology before the story wraps in a satisfying and dramatic fashion.
Vaughn has produced yet another excellent addition to the Kitty Norville series. Kitty's Big Trouble advances the long-term plot thread of The Long Game alluded to in several previous Kitty novels, while also creating an excellent fun-filled, action-packed, humorous Kitty novel that also works as a stand alone novel. Vaughn does not neglect the elements that make the Kitty Norville series great, such as the funny exchanges with the various people who call into the Midnight Hour radio show, and Kitty deciding to test the Dragon's Pearl by getting it to replicate Power Bars. She also does a nice job of developing one of the reveals from the dramatic end of Kitty Goes To War – that Cormac is now sharing his body with the spirit of a witch, Amelia, who was executed in the 1800s at the prison in which Cormac was incarcerated. In this book we get a much better understanding of how the body sharing works. Vaughn also leaves open a number of plot threads to be developed in later books in the series such as can and should Kitty and Ben try to have children, and how well Ben is coping with having become a werewolf.
I assume the title, Kitty's Big Trouble, is at least in part meant to refer to the movie Big Trouble in Little China. Although in Vaughn's book a considerably larger number of the key players other than Kitty's pack and Roman are actually Chinese or Chinese-American. It's been a number of years since I've read Journey to the West, but I thought the Wukong of the Vaughn novel had a personality very similar to that of the traditional Chinese stories. And it is fitting that if Kitty were going to run into beings from Chinese mythological and folkloric traditions, she would run into Monkey.
While the book can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone novel, it is probably best appreciated by those who have already read at least some of the other books in the series, although Vaughn does provide enough background information to catch up the novice readers of the series. This is a great addition to the series and is also the sort of popcorn novel you can enjoy while spending an afternoon at the beach or by the pool.