Sunday, 24 June 2012

Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton

It's been several years since I read any of Laurell K. Hamilton's books and it was with slight trepidation that I approached the 21st in the Anita Blake series, Kiss the Dead, which arrived recently courtesy of Headline, who are certainly expanding my reading horizons! Would I remember, I wondered, enough about the settings and characters to be able to get involved with the plot, or would I do that thing where you simply flounder about wishing you could remember why so-and-so was intent on a particular kind of action, or quite what the political complexities meant for such an action. Well, there was no need to worry - Anita may have progressed from animator (zombie raiser) to US Marshal in the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team, and she may have gained all sorts of powers since the last book I read, but there's quite enough recapitulation to make sure that the intermittent reader is never too far adrift. If anything, there's too much explanation, and quite a lot of digression, but it's usually entertaining, since the story is told by Anita herself in a pithy, forthright style which parallels her decisiveness in combat situations and makes her the kind of person the cops she works with admire and respect. Despite her efficiency as a vampire executioner, she's aware of the moral dimension of her work, and appreciates the needs for changing rules as preternaturals begin to gain the same kind of rights that humans have.

The plot of Kiss the Dead, briefly, is that there's a new kind of vampire in town, one who holds no allegiance to a vampire master (such as Anita's lover, Jean-Claude). These vampires are recruiting indiscriminately, and they are harming humans - in fact, they've kidnapped a young girl. It's hard for the St Louis vampires to believe that this can be happening - it's unthinkable to make vampires and them leave them to their own devices because they can't control their appetites. Jean-Claude thinks this might have happened because the new vampires simply don't appreciate how democratic American vampires are these days, but the important thing is that they have got to be stopped, and that's Anita's job. She'll try to talk them into giving themselves up, but if necessary, she'll kill them.  Cue action.

I'm guessing that regular readers of the series are probably going to be pretty happy with this latest offering. There's quite a bit of action, with appropriate weaponry and the occasional whiff of holy water. There's a new angle on Anita's growing powers which is going to cause some difficulty for her various lovers. There's a good deal of angst about the role of the vampire executioner and the heavy responsibility of caring for all the people bound to her in by some means or other. And there's way to much sex. Well, that last is probably a matter of opinion, and I'm sure lots of readers adore it, but frankly, I'm a believer in closed bedroom doors. I don't mind at all that she's sleeping with vampires, weretigers, wererats and what-have-yous, but keep it to yourselves, guys! One sex scene went on for three chapters, which says much for the characters' endurance, but it was beyond mine - I skipped it. What's worse, the concentration on the pleasures of the flesh (yawn) doesn't leave a lot of room for plot, which was slender, and was itself interrupted much too frequently by long explanations about the now huge cast of characters. As each lover appears, his or her relationship to Anita, and consequently to the rest of the tribe, has to be covered in detail, which slows everything down again. Some of this detail appeared more than once, suggesting that the author, too, has begun to find her path being impeded by the depth of treacle that has to be waded through.

But, as I've suggested, Laurell K. Hamilton has a devoted readership and she wouldn't be on book 21 if there weren't plenty of people out there simply gasping for the next instalment. And I did finish it, and I wasn't bored by the action part of the story, even if I did skim over all those slippery bodies. And it's a hell of a lot better written than that nonsense which is doing the rounds at the moment (you know, that 50... thing).

So, if this sounds like your cup of tea, happy reading! If you haven't read any of the earlier Anita Blake books, though, I'd start with the first, Guilty Pleasures. There was definitely more action (as opposed to sex), more fun, and much less soul-searching.

Kiss the Dead is out now in hardback and for Kindle; the paperback edition will be published in the UK  on 8 November.


  1. Do you know when the paperback edition will be published in America?

    1. Sorry, no, I don't, but I'm sure if you look on it'll tell you if the information is available yet.

  2. I have one of the books in the series and still have to read it. I think I might enjoy it, I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I like your comment about the '50....thing' too :-) which I haven't read. I think yours is the first review that has said the Anita Blake books might have too much sex - 3 chapters does seem rather long, doesn't it? when sometimes a page is too much! and I used to read romances in my teens....I will dig out mine and read it, good to know there are 21 books now in the series.

    You are enjoying your Kindle, aren't you?

    1. I *adore* my Kindle, it's transformed my life! I don't mind if no-one ever gives me anything but amazon vouchers again :-)

      I think a lot of people probably like the steamy side of Hamilton's writing and I do admit to being a terrible prude. I feel rather like a spinster aunt these days, with a list like the BBC used to have of words you weren't allowed to say on the radio, like bloomers and district nurse. While I was writing the review I kept getting enmeshed in sentences which were full of double entendre and having to edit them out. The perils of reviewing!