The Laughing Corpse is an urban fantasy/paranormal novel by Laurell K. Hamilton. Its protagonist, Anita Blake, is a young “animator”, or somebody who is able to raise the dead. As such, she has certain immunities to other paranormal creatures, such as vampires and lycanthropes (were-beasts).
This book focuses primarily on Anita’s relationship with the American voodoo community, and particularly the morality of buying, selling, and using zombies as slaves. She has been offered millions of dollars to raise a centuries-old corpse, which requires a human sacrifice. Meanwhile, a particularly vicious or strong zombie has been prowling neighborhoods and destroying entire families. She works with the local police force to find and deal with this creature.
The Laughing Corpse is Hamilton’s second novel. Anita Blake is a bit more fleshed out than the first novel. We know she is of Mexican/German descent. We also learn that she has a special affinity with the dead. This fact caused strife when she was young, before she could control her abilities. Anita has a grandmother who is a voodoo priestess, who gave her early training in order to control her powers. This sort of background was largely missing from her first novel, and was sorely missed. The protagonist needed a background more solid than “cranky, badass 24-year-old” and Hamilton has provided this. The novel was a quick read. The villains are truly villainous (and as such, rather flat), and Anita doesn’t hesitate to destroy them if she gets the chance.
The novel’s plot is tightly assembled, although the chapters would have been more welcome if they were rearranged to end at points of tension, rather than points of irony. For example, most chapters end with conversation, and an ironic point being made. “So do I,” I thought as I spoke to the cop. “So do I.” End of chapter. She gives a great place to bookmark and get a turkey sandwich, but doesn’t compel me to come back to her novel at all, much less, make me want to skip food or sleep for her writing. If her chapters ended on tense points, or at revelatory moments, this reader at least, would be much happier to continue. I’m not saying Hamilton is contributing to my recent weight gain, but the construction could be more consistent if her chapters were ended at high moments, rather than ironic ones.
Her prose is solid, and I rarely, if ever, had a moment where I was stopped at such an ugly sentence that I couldn’t continue reading until I shared the silliness with my wife. Anita should invest in a better home alarm system because it seems that every time the woman enters her house, someone is waiting for her either to kill, threaten, or eat her. It becomes comical after awhile because you’d think Anita would learn her lesson.
Just minor quibbles. In all, the book is a fun read. Anita is becoming more lifelike, and less hardboiled. The minor characters could still use work, and antagonistic characters should be given stronger motivations. Her chapters should end on more tense moments. But the plot is fine. If you enjoy paranormal fiction with a strong heroine, I’d certainly recommend you the series a try.