Laurell K. Hamilton
Burnt Offerings (1998)
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Genre: darkly humorous vampire romance/horror
Anita Blake is by profession a vampire executioner, working with the St. Louis police. Most of her friends are vampires, werewolves, wererats, and wereleopards – usually this is a big help to her investigations of preternatural crimes (committed by and against the “monsters”). But Anita recently broke up with the local pack’s alpha wolf, Richard and her new boyfriend is the city’s master vampire Jean-Claude; the conflict between these three characters has caused a great deal of conflict among their packs. The police have assigned Anita to investigate a series of arsons at vampire-friendly establishments, but the Vampire Council (which is unhappy with the legality of preternatural creatures) convenes in St. Louis and challenges Jean-Claude’s power over the city. Anita, Jean-Claude, and Richard are inextricably bound in a triumvirate, so they use their shared powers to stand against the Council. In alliance with the other “monster” leaders they defend the city’s monster population against itself.
Geographical Setting: an alternative St. Louis
Time Period: contemporary, not specified
Series: Seventh Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel
Alternative religious points of view are well-developed and religion is approached as a complex issue (Blake is a practicing Methodist). A great deal of energy work/play is used in confrontations or to demonstrate connections or disconnections between characters. The legality of preternatural creatures is an interesting hook for readers interested in exploring class/race relations in an alternative setting. Examination of loyalty and pack relations might appeal to readers with experience in alternative or chosen families. St. Louis landmarks are used liberally. Minor characters that feature in this particular book are not one-dimensional, but the main characters are really the only ones that are deeply developed. Anita Blake is a small woman who packs a punch, verbally and physically. The pace picks up quickly in the beginning, and only has a few lulls before a very speedy conclusion and an ultra-short wrapup chapter.
Red Flags: Homo- and bisexual characters abound. Rape of both sorts occurs often, but only once is it actually described. Constant sexual tension and innuendo, but almost no explicit description of sexual acts. Torture and descriptions of bloody/rotten body parts are common. Much swearing. There are some editing issues, so if it bothers you that Hamilton introduces the same minor character twice with identical text about 100 pages apart, try not to notice.