The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Publisher: Quirk Books
My Rating: 3/5 stars
Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires has a title that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It is what it says it is! Set in the 1980s and 1990s Patricia—doctor’s wife, mother to two teenagers, and caregiver to her mother-in-law—is bored to tears with her country-club and pearls lifestyle. Her book club, which should be somewhat of an escape, is just more of the same…rich women posturing by reading pretentious books that they only skim through at best.
But things get kicked up a notch when some of the ladies defect, and begin their own true crime gathering. Immersed in the world of serial killers, Patricia feels like she may have found a little excitement. That is until a stranger moves into town, some kids go missing, and Patricia and her Southern book club sleuths find themselves facing something a lot more sinister than Dahmer or Bundy.
I wanted to love this, but ended up just liking it. The title grabbed me right away, and immediately I was thinking Blanche Dubois or any of the Sugarbaker ladies from Designing Women (look it up) or Steel Magnolias with a stake in one hand, and a Mint Julep in the other ready to “y’all” the bloodsucker back to hell where he belonged.
No such luck. While the premise is fabulous, and there were some chuckle-aloud moments, I wanted more camp. I was hoping for more comedy with my horror—but it was less comedy, more drama, and mystery. Hendrix spends some time on Patricia’s feelings of isolation and abandonment when the book club isn’t really feeling up to the detective work she is so eager to engage in. I have to wonder if that was his commentary on how women who may be a little longer in the tooth (get it?) seem to get cast aside if they don’t fit a certain mold, or want just a little more than what they have been given. From their initial defection, I got a little female empowerment at times from this crew of Van Helsings.
Hendrix does turn a few vampire legends upside down (I won’t spoil them here) but they aren’t anything I rebelled against. No one glittered or procreated. Thank goodness. In fact, I rather enjoyed the method in which you have to destroy this particular vampire’s kind. Some reviewers of the book complained about the level of gore (high), but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. Rats eating flesh, people eating flesh. Isn’t that what vampire novels are supposed to include?
There are a couple elements that Hendrix slays (pun intended) beautifully. He has the art of suspense down. Even though it’s been done numerous times, there is a particular scene where Patricia is in the vampire’s house, and there’s that feeling of will-she-get-caught-or-won’t-she that is well-handled and anxiety inducing. The other element that really worked for me is Hendrix’s atmosphere-building in this novel. You can just feel the Charleston humidity rising up from the pages, and see the Spanish moss dripping from those thick trunked trees. Ah…I could use that Mint Julep right about now.
If you like a good amount of gore and a few laughs mixed in with a heaping helping of drama, you’ll like this novel. For me, it was enough to generate some interest in Grady Hendrix’s other work, so stay tuned.