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.