Some time ago I wrote a review of R.M. Huffman’s Sweet Tooth series for the now-defunct horror website The Slaughtered Bird. As Halloween is coming up, and the stories are too good to miss for this time of year, I am republishing this review here.
R.M. Huffman deftly straddles the line of horror and humor in his Sweet Tooth series of short stories about Dr. Pierce, a vampire psychiatrist who faces challenges both medical and supernatural in his practice. Huffman is himself a practicing physician, and his knowledge of the human body’s foibles adds credibility to Pierce’s internal dialogue and actions. While clever and lighthearted, the Sweet Tooth stories tackle heavier issues at times, with varying results.
The title story, Sweet Tooth, introduces us to Pierce in a very droll fashion: he’s crept into a local hospital on Halloween night to feed on the glucose-laden blood of diabetic patients. It’s how he gets his sugar rush, you see. Pierce is himself a throwback to the vampires of Stoker’s tale: he doesn’t cast a reflection, can’t stand crosses, is repulsed by garlic. No sparkling here.
The scope widens a bit with Lord of the Pies, where Pierce has to contend with a most unusual antagonist brought into his clinic for psychiatric care. Here we learn that Pierce is far from the only supernatural creature in the world, and that even vampire doctors have to work on Thanksgiving.
In A Very Christmas Sweet Tooth, Pierce shows us the vague beginnings of a conscience; or, perhaps, just a desire to see a case through to the bitter end.
The Heartstaker story brings us to Valentine’s Day, when even vampires and werewolves get lonely. Can a cold-blooded, undead immortal like Pierce fall in love?
With Easter comes the story Raise the Dad, which finds Pierce hiding in his crypt: “Imagine how you might feel about Halloween if the decorations and costumes were real. Crosses. So many crosses.” Even in seclusion there’s no rest for the wicked, and Pierce has an unwelcome visitor that unearths not just the unquiet dead, but unresolved personal issues as well.
The anthology ends with Rebirthday Boy, where we find Pierce celebrating both Independence Day and his (fake) birthday: you have to maintain a façade of mortality when you deal with humans, after all. This neatly wraps up the various story threads from the previous Sweet Tooth tales and sets up for a new chapter in Pierce’s (un)life.
In Sweet Tooth Omnibus, we get a year in the life of a vampire who’s anything but an ordinary bloodsucker. Amoral, anti-heroic, and yet a physician who helps both the living and undead. A fun anthology told in a unique voice: definitely worth a midnight read.