By:Denise Dumars
Date: Friday, December 22, 2000

The Man Leaned Over Me and I Could Smell the Fur and...

Well, that's about the only quote from this book that I can put in a family publication such as this one. Laurell K. Hamilton's latest saga of necromancer and vampire executioner Anita Blake is 585 pages of gore, sadism, and the objectification of men. Where's the men's movement when we need it?

For Anita Blake fans, this may well be the Holy Grail of novels: it's full of endless conversations between Anita and hitman Edward, a guy whose job is making monsters sleep with the fishes. You better enjoy it, because another Anita Blake novel won't be out until October 2001.

The story starts promisingly enough: Anita is called to New Mexico by old pal Edward to help investigate a very strange crime. People have been murderedand some left alive, but skinless. Hmmm, sounds like our old pal Aztec god Xipe Totec, the Flayed One, at work. Remember that story about him? Who wrote it? Someone like Lisa Tuttle, I think. Anyway, in order to find the dastardly, well, dastards who done it, Anita and Edward have to go straight to the lair of Obsidian Butterfly. (Her Aztec name I cannot find right now to save my life, but it's in the book, really.) But before they do that they have to have a very long conversation in a pick-up truckwhich is, I guess, the kind of thing fans of these books like, but I was waiting to get to the scene of the crime and check it out. Anyway, they go to this nightclub run by Salma Hayekoops, I mean Obsidian Butterflyand if you've seen From Dusk Till Dawn, you can guess what happens next, only I had to stop reading when the sadism and torture got too much for me.

In this series, every city has a Master vampire, and in Albuquerque it's Obsidian Butterfly. A lot of time is spent in these books ranking and classifying vampires, werewolves, and such, the point of which is, I suppose, to either give people ideas for their LARPS or talk in code to the dominants and submissives out there. In this book, we have hunky were-jaguars, too. When men are not being dressed in fashions from International Male and described from pierced eyebrow to toe ring, they are being cut, flagellated, and similarly tortured. Who are these books for? Romance novel readers who have gone way over the edge? The guys down at the Mine Shaft?

Anyway, somewhere in here there's a plot and, though I never saw him mentioned, I know Xipe Totecsort of the Ed Gein of Aztec deitieshad something to do with the events herein. And I guess the fans really like Anita bantering with a woman-hating bodyguard and ripping into Edward about his love life. So if you're one of those fans who has a thing for Edward and wants to see more of him, this is the book for you. At least Anita isn't torn between her two lovers for a change since they're out of earshot.

Hamilton isn't being edited anymore, and for me that's a problem. The book is too long, too talky, and just too icky. The plot goes all over the place, and I get really tired of scenes wherein Anita worries that someone might see her lacy black bra. And I really don't like the way men are treated in this storyhey, they're people too. This series of books is very much a fantasy life for a lot of readers but whoa, it's not my fantasy.

I really feel bad for dissing this book. Hamilton is tremendously talented, and there is some very effective horror in contained these pages, but somewhere along the way she didn't feel it was enough and had to get heavy into the pathological sex torture. This is a damn shameI wish I could recommend this novel, but in all good conscience I cannot.

If you're new to the series, I suggest starting with an earlier novel that predates all the S&M and extreme talkiness. Even my writing partner, a big fan of Anita Blake stories, couldn't finish Obsidian Butterfly. This is the ninth book in a series that has no end in sight, and it's now available in paperback.