When I think of scary circus stuff, clowns leap to the front of the list. Of course, there are fanged clowns in the Circus of the Damned. How could there not be? It’s the perfect milieu for Anita Blake, the heroine of Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Vampire Hunter” series. Anita is an animator: she raises the undead for a living, which goes to show you, by page one, she’s not a squeamish woman. More about this circus. There are demon acrobats, and fanged clowns, and sinuous snake charmers and giant snakes. And it’s all run by the vampires of St. Louis.
It’s also the daytime resting place of Jean-Claude, the new Master of the City, who has marked Anita twice and is, to her enormous displeasure, her vampire Master. Don’t worry readers: she says she’d die first before taking the next two marks.
There are several points of tension in the plot. A pack of rogue vampires are trolling the hills making seemingly-random kills. Anita is spending far too much of her time helping out the police, according to her money-hungry boss, and is missing her appointments. He is finally persuaded to hire Larry, a very green animator, to assist Anita until he can learn the trade. Meanwhile, area vampires are threatening Jean-Claude’s position as Master of St. Louis. His first thoughts are to his doubly-marked servant Anita, who must willingly submit to him before his peers in order to solidify his power. The reader learns more about lycanthropy (generic animal shapeshifting) in is book and we meet the last of a race of creatures.
Hamilton hasn’t really explored Anita’s lovelife, except to say it’s mostly-nonexistent. Throughout the book, she is busy almost having a date with a brown-eyed handsome man. Life keeps seeming to get in the way so it seems readers will have to wait until the fourth (or later) volume in the series before romance creeps into the protagonist’s life.
The book is well-written, like the first two, and Anita becomes more lifelike with each new volume in the series. She’s cynical and unafraid to espouse her dislikes. She’s married to her work and exercises, not because she likes it, but because she will eventually need to outrun the bad guys. The series is popular. I’m supposing the character will develop further as the storyline progresses. It’s what I look for in this sort of novel because, let’s face it: the only thing that scares me more than clowns is a puncture wound. I don’t read the novels because I love vampires. I will keep reading as long as Anita grows.