Laurell K. Hamilton
Guilty Pleasures (1993)
Anita Blake #1
Reviewed: 1998-04-20

In general, I don't like dark fantasy. The suspension of disbelief just doesn't work for me. I picked up this first volume of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter because the series has been getting excellent reviews on the net. It doesn't make any more sense than other vampire stories, in fact rather less than, say, S.A. Swiniarski's Raven, but it certainly is fun to read. Outlandish nonsense, but fun nevertheless.

It's a bizarre world. The undead have come out of hiding and demanded equal civil rights. Now the courts are busy, and meanwhile the police and others have to deal with the mess. Vampires, wereanimals, ghouls, zombies, and other creatures of the night freely intermingle with humans. There are all kinds of freaks and weird people. It's hilarious. The novel is set in St. Louis, USA, mostly around the District, the city quarter of the undead milieu.

Anita Blake is an animator. She raises the dead for a living. She also lays the undead to rest. They call her "The Executioner". Not bad for a young woman of twenty-four years whose physical build you would hardly call imposing. (We're told she's 160 centimeters, 48 kilograms.) At the outset of the novel she has killed fourteen vampires. By the end that's a few more.

Anita doesn't like vampires. When she is approached with an offer to work for them, she declines. Somebody or something is gruesomely murdering vampires in the city, and they would like her to find out. No way. But then she allows herself to be invited to a friend's bachelorette party, and at a vampire strip club things start taking the wrong turn. Quickly Anita is in "to the eyes and sinking rapidly". The city's master vampire wants her to take on the case and threatens to kill her friend should she refuse. People and things are out to kill Anita, she develops a strange bond to a vampire by the name of Jean-Claude, a hitman now specializing in the undead is after what she knows, and this is more like the beginning of her problems.

What do you expect from a vampire novel? Gore? Erotic tension? You got it. Guilty Pleasures is well-written, fast-paced, and features a very engaging heroine and first-person narrator. Effortless and addictive, it reminded me of Lois McMaster Bujold although the writing styles aren't all that similar.

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Christian "naddy" Weisgerber <>