There's something inherently, and perhaps deceptively, simple in Nate Southard's premise that, like 30 Days of Night previously, makes you wonder why it hasn't been done before. Whereas the Steve Niles/Ben Templesmith comic book series took the brilliant premise of vampires attacking an Alaskan town during the winter where the sun doesn't shine for a month, Southard sets his vampire story in a prison, an equally inhospitable killing ground for these bloodsuckers to roam wildly and violently satisfy their cravings.
The result is a ridiculously fun read with a few disparate wheels that Southard keeps turning in a way that looks easy. Yes, there are vampires, but we also get a good deal of atmosphere from the prison itself and its inhabitants. There's gang warfare, corrupt guards, the prison administration that doesn't want to believe the growing crisis is the result of the supernatural, and the prison's priest who realizes what's happening and wants to stop the growing spate of murders.
While the vampires are interesting creatures in their own right - and blessedly ugly, non-sparkling, vicious underground killing machines - there's enough human drama to occupy the daylight hours and keep the interest level high. Some of the prisoners are downright awful, others less so, and a couple that even earn a begrudging nod of respect and who are fun characters. While they fit certain prison archetypes (the Sicilian mafia boss, the Latin and black gang members, and the hardcore racist Aryan Nation trash), Southard fleshes out these characters well enough that they each, mostly, possess various shades of gray rather than being merely stereotypical cutouts and stand-ins to idle the time in between vampire attacks.
But, this is a vampire novel, straight-up, and one other thing Southard does very well is violence. There's plenty of gore to go around, from brutal shivings to throat-ripping nastiness that culminate into a wild finale. Fun stuff!
If you're looking for a dark, gruesome vampire story, this book needs to be on your reading list - it's good - damn good - and one of the most flat-out enjoyable books I've read thus far in 2016.