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Burnt Offerings

by Laurell K. Hamilton

paperback edition

Burnt Offerings is the seventh book in Laurell K. Hamilton's highly addictive series about Anita Blake, vampire killer. It will be deeply confusing if you haven't read the previous books; Guilty Pleasures is the one to start with.

In the world of these books, vampires and werewolves have come out of the closet and demanded civil rights. However, once the things that go bump in the night are legally protected from murder, you can no longer kill them just because they give you the creeps. When you do get a warrant for their execution, you let a legal vampire executioner like Anita handle it.

Anita makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer look like a pushover. Wooden stakes will do in a pinch, but her preferred tool for putting lethal holes in vampires is a 9mm Browning loaded with silver-plated Glazer Safety Rounds. For the past few books, she's been romantically torn between the city's master vampire, Jean Claude (master vampires are always French; it's a law or something), and the local werewolf pack leader, Richard. (Hey, if you're going to date the monsters, you might as well have high standards.)

Anita's entanglements have drawn her so deep into the affairs of the city's vampires and lycanthropes that she seems to be losing contact with what passes for the "normal" world. The later books give the impression that the entire population of St. Louis includes only about ten humans, and they're all policemen or firemen or victims. Throughout the series, Anita has been growing more and more coldblooded, numbed by the horrors she deals with, and the line between her and the monsters has grown constantly thinner. In Burnt Offerings, the only thing separating Anita from the monsters is a thin film of sweat.

Anita and Jean Claude's habit of messily disposing of anything bigger and badder that crosses their path has not gone unnoticed. The vampire council, who would give any master vampire cold sweats if vampires could sweat, casually drops by to threaten, torture, intimidate, and generally amuse themselves at Jean Claude's expense. Anita, of course, is caught in the middle. As usual, extreme violence ensues.

Hamilton continues to be incapable of introducing a character into a scene without describing their clothing from head to toe; this would be a much shorter book if anyone ever just threw on jeans and a t-shirt instead of silk and velvet. (Given that the characters usually end up soaked in blood by the end of the night, their dry cleaning bills must be dreadful. You'd think they'd have learned by now.) One of the things I love about these books is the way Anita kicks the inhumanly beautiful snot out of vampires that dress and speak like refugees from an Anne Rice novel.

Each book has been more histrionic in tone than the last, and Burnt Offerings is almost without lulls; on those rare occasions that the threat level relaxes, sexual tension rushes in to fill the breach. Burnt Offerings is also full of torture and rape and exhibitionism, none of which I enjoy reading about. However, Anita's narration is wonderfully sarcastic and suspenseful. This is the sort of book I stay up all night reading, even though I won't respect it in the morning.

-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
April 1998

paperback edition
Publisher: Ace
Date: May 1998
ISBN: 0-441-00524-1
Binding: paperback
Price: US $6.99

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Sep 2001 / CMS