Laurell K. Hamilton
Circus of the Damned (1995)
Anita Blake #3
Whoopee! Anita's back and she's ready to kick undead ass. It's Halloween season, and Anita is busy raising the dead. Her greedy boss isn't too happy when the police start calling again, taking Anita away from the job and asking for her opinions on the latest round of killings. This time, the expert judges, it's a rogue master vampire and his flock.
As usual, there are other complications. A radical group called Humans First wants to kill the Master of the City. Fair enough, but they also want to get his name and daytime resting place from reluctant Anita, and they aren't choosey in their methods. The engagement of Anita's old friend Edward for the job puts a serious strain on their relationship. Speaking of Edward, this frightenly reliable, ice-cold killer, whose idea of a big gun is a flamethrower, is one of the stars of the supporting cast.
Anita's hitherto rather desolate personal life takes a new turn when, besides still struggling with her love-hate relationship with the master vampire Jean-Claude, she meets Richard, a harmless junior high science teacher. Okay, so he hangs out a lot around the monsters and shows an uncanny interest in lycanthropy, but hey, he's cute, and suddenly Anita has her first date in months.
One hallmark of the series are the numerous kinds of supernatural and undead creatures the author puts on stage. The special focus of this particular novel are snakes. Anita gets to meet the friggin' biggest king cobra, plus a lamia and things even she doesn't have a name for. She also has to deal with perhaps the oldest living being in the world. That one makes those nasty unimillenarian master vampires you otherwise tend to meet look like mere pups.
Let's see, what else? There's Alejandro, another master vampire who appears to be taken by her just as much as Jean-Claude is, although he is somewhat lacking in gentlemanliness. And there's Larry, the new member of Animators Inc., hired by Anita's boss in response to her request for additional staff. Now she's stuck with the green kid as her apprentice, praying that he will survive the battlefield surrounding her.
Hamilton takes us on a bloody rampage. Anita gets battered more than ever, maybe too much for credibility. Like the infamous Energizer bunny she just keeps going and going, despite getting burnt, cut, bitten, almost drowned, thrown through the air, etc. Ouch. Now with the third book in the series the novelty is wearing off and an inkling of formulaicity starts to appear. If you can catch your breath long enough to notice. Apart from the breakneck action, the book is carried by the general strength of Hamilton's writing and the likability of her protagonist. Anita is just the most adorable vampire slayer ever.
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