Guilty Pleasures (Book Review)


Guilty Pleasures is a vampire novel in the urban fantasy genre, the first in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton.  The series is based in and around the city of St. Louis, where the heroine works as an animator, someone who raises the dead. To the vampire community, she is simply known as “The Executioner” because she has killed dozens of rogue vampires who need to be brought to justice.The novel is in the “hardboiled detective” genre, and Anita Blake bears much resemblance to Sue Grafton’s character Kinsey Millhone: a no-nonsense woman doing a no-nonsense job. She is tough, no nonsense, hates seeing her friends hurt by her own actions–the usual stuff for a genre like this.

Guilty Pleasures takes its name after a vampire strip club, where we meet a number of the incidental characters of the novel, and where Anita Blake becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. Someone in the city is murdering the city’s powerful vampires, and they want to know why. We meet Jean-Claude, a vampire who will be featured more heavily in future novels.

The primary antagonist is a thousand-year-old vampire in a child’s body named Nikolaos, who rules the vampire underworld through fear.

The writing is solid, but not exceptional. The plot moves along nicely. My only gripes are with the character development. Anita Blake is, frankly, not a very likable character.  She is framed by all the things she dislikes: he hates blackberry pie. She can’t stand vampires. She is annoyed by her pager on vibrate… and the list goes on. Aside from her private detective friend Veronica, she has no close friends, and one wonders why Veronica bothers to hang around with her at all.

The vampire world itself is very dark and chaotic. Nikolaos is near-insane in her despotic rule over St. Louis, and is presented as, basically, an evil creature without a redeeming value whatsoever. This doesn’t sit well with me: I prefer my villains with a little psychological meat on their bones.

This was, by all accounts, Hamilton’s first novel, written in 1993, and time has worn the story around the edges.  It seems odd that she has no computer, and that she uses a pager, and there are no cell phones. The novel holds up quite nicely though, and as an adventure, managed to keep me interested enough through its 260+ pages.

I will be reading the second novel in the series.  My wife assures me that Hamilton gets better as a writer, and Anita Blake becomes a more interesting character.

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One thought on “Guilty Pleasures (Book Review)”

  1. I could NOT stand Anita Blake when I started reading this series, years ago. I guess you have a hard time liking someone who doesn’t seem to like anything, or at least never mentions the things she does like. I do like Anita more later on, perhaps because she starts to take on some of the more likable qualities of the men in her life. I don’t really think Laurell K. Hamilton is a good writer, and I’m not entirely sure she does improve as the series rolls on. I do know why Anita is such a technophobe, however. Laurell K. Hamilton has rather obviously made Anita Blake in her own image in so many ways, and Laurell herself is the worst kind of Luddite. It took her ages to even start posting her own blogs online. She’d hand write things, and had an assistant who got things onto computer for her. The future detriment of Anita’s relationship with a certain werewolf was all down to the fact that his character was based on her husband…who during the course of the series has become her ex-husband. To many similarities to list here, but I always view everything through an “Anita=Laurell” lense. Now…to read your other reviews! I saw the “Anita Blake” tag in your cloud when reading your most current blog, and had to come take a peek. 🙂

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