This post contains a gifted copy.
Hello friends, today I’m sharing my review of Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw. When I first heard about this book last year I knew straight away that I needed it in my life. A paranormal murder mystery with vampires set in New Orleans in the NINETIES? Sign me up.
I was super lucky and received an advanced copy, and also had the chance to work with Amy to share her 10 favourite books earlier in the week. Mina and the Undead is released TODAY so keep on reading for my spoiler free review!
Publisher: UCLAN Publishing
Genre: YA horror
Length: 300 pages
Source: ARC provided by the publisher
New Orleans Fang Fest, 1995.
Mina’s having a summer to die for.
17-year-old Mina, from England, arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. After growing up in Whitby, the town that inspired Dracula, Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie. She can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…
And it gets even better when Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate, co-worker and fellow horror enthusiast.
But the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s… Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.
Content warnings: gore, horror, death, blood
In a few words:
A gory murder mystery set in 1990s New Orleans packed with vampire killing sprees, pop culture references, morally grey characters and a cast you cannot trust in a city with a horrific past.
My Review of Mina and the Undead
We dive straight into the story, with Mina arriving in New Orleans and being introduced to her sister’s friends and colleagues almost right away. I always love this method as sometimes a stilted beginning can hold me back from enjoying the rest of the story.
Mina’s first experience of The Mansion of the Macabre horror tour gave me flashbacks (nightmares?) to when I went to Farmageddon a couple of years ago, a farm with interactive horror rooms here in the North West. The descriptive writing meant that I could easily picture each of the scenarios and Mina’s fear and excitement were almost tangible through her thoughts.
I loved how unique each of the main characters were; from the very beginning they each had their own voice and style which meant that you could tell who was speaking just by their words and actions, which makes a story more immersive for me. There were characters of different ethnicities and sexual orientations which we love to see.
The fact that the characters were so well developed also meant that I was suspicious of EVERYONE. Literally every time a character did something I was questioning their motives, trying to link it back to their actions in a previous scene or attempting to work out what they could be trying to achieve. I always enjoy when a book doesn’t just have a clear cut good or bad guy, which is why morally grey characters are my fave.
Amy weaves a lot of real New Orleans history into Mina and the Undead which added another sinister level to the story. It’s past is pretty dark and terrifying, which makes it the perfect backdrop for this genre. But is it wrong that I want to visit it even more after reading this book?
The nineties and pop culture references dotted throughout the book were 10/10 in my opinion. I enjoyed the subtle nods that you may only notice if you grew up in the 1990s or if you recognised the classic films or songs, but the more overt references were also a ton of fun. I got major 90s TV vibes too, particularly Buffy but also Charmed. I also still haven’t stopped singing How Soon is Now to be honest.
Amy also scattered lots of references to death in her character’s language and actions which was so on brand. A particular favourite line is how Mina’s wig was “beyond resuscitation”. These small additions just show how much time and effort Amy put into constructing this world and as a reader I massively appreciated them.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that because this is a young adult story that it will be tame. Oh no. Amy definitely doesn’t shy away from the more horrific and gory scenes. They also never felt gratuitous or forced, which can sometimes be an issue in horror books which are just trying to promote that ‘shock factor’ but in reality have no substance.
While this is definitely a murder mystery, I appreciated the exploration of family, friendship and young love. Mina and her sister’s relationship felt very authentic to me, and I loved seeing this develop over the course of the story as the pair learn to cope with the trauma of their mother going missing. The romance was also intricately woven into the plot so while it didn’t overshadow the murders or the main storyline, there were enough moments to keep me invested in the characters and their relationship, which made the stakes in the overall plot even higher.
Mina and the Undead was a fast paced story in which you can’t help but get swept up in the mystery and intrigue. The plot will keep you guessing and you won’t be able to trust anyone. This story featured everything we know and love about classic vampire stories and I truly believe Amy will be one to watch.