A series of urban fantasy novels written in hard boiled detective first person style, with Anita Blake as the narrator and protagonist. The story takes place in the St. Louis of an alternate reality Earth where not only do vampires, werewolves and magic exist, but everyone knows they exist. For example, several years before the start of the series, the U.S. supreme court granted civil rights to vampires, and now you need a warrant to kill them.

Anita's regular job is with Animators Inc., where she raises the dead so customers can ask them questions: is this your real will or is it a forgery, where did you hide the money, and so on. Through Animators Inc. she is on retainer as a consultant for the Preternatural Crime Task Force of the St. Louis police, derisively known as the "Spook Squad". Lastly, Anita is Missouri's licensed vampire killer, and has the most legal vampire kills of any human in the U.S.; she is known among Vampires as "The Executioner". She has an acquaintance, Edward, who has even more, non-legal kills under his belt; the vampires simply refer to him as "Death".

This series of books is actually somewhat entertaining as far as vampire novels go. While it doesn't hold up to Bram Stoker's Dracula or the works of Anne Rice, and to lots of other works out there, it's not exactly a total flop. Admittedly Laurell K. Hamilton is not exactly a top notch writer, but I still found these books at least somewhat entertaining. They are with their flaws, of course, but they do have their merits too. Without spoiling anything, I'll try to sum up the series and some of the ups and downs. First off, if it wasn't already obvious, these books are hardly for kids, moreso than usual. Due to Anita dealing with the baddest of the bad, and the evilest of the evil, the matter tends to get rather dark and mature. Numerous parts of the book graphically depict violence, torture, murder, rape, and sexual assault, and VERY often later on in the series, plain old fashioned sex, if sex with various members of the preternatural community can really be considered "old fashioned". These aren't just minor allusions to the acts, either. Hamilton doesn't pull any punches when describing what's going on. While most of the nastier stuff is neccesary for the story, it's still rather disturbing to lots of people. Also, if you don't like sex scenes in books, I strongly advise you don't read past the fifth book or so, as it gets really bad, both in quality and in quantity. It wouldn't be so bad if most of them weren't worse than your average piece of internet erotica, but it gets to be that way, save for one or two scenes that are actually pivotal to the plot.

The books still have some amount of merit. The style, though it may not be considered a work of genius, is at least entertaining. Anita doesn't overdo the whole hard boiled role and Max Payne it up, but you do get a feel for just how she works. She also ends up evolving throughout the books. Reading the first book you see that Anita is a far different character than she is in the latest installment, Cerulean Sins. It's arguable that she has evolved almost TOO much, but more on that later. The main challenge in a book of this genre is the rules for the various monsters and other creepy crawlies that you bring up, and Hamilton brings up almost all of them. Ghosts, zombies, wereanimals (not just wolves), demons, and of course vampires. On top of that, they all have to end up co-existing in the modern world. If there's one area that Hamilton shines in, it's this one. The creatures in the books behave and have to act more or less as you'd expect them to and nothing is stretched out to be totally unbelievable. The rules she sets up for the vampires, for example, are pretty standard. No sunlight unless you like being on fire and dying, crosses are bad if the wielder of the cross actually has faith in it, they still have to ask permission to enter a private place, and they can also reproduce with a human, though the risk of complications is rather high. Nothing is really totally out of the ordinary, and Hamilton does all make it work in a modern setting, mostly by making everybody aware of the fact that vampires and lycanthropes exist. They may not like it, but at least they're protected under the law, preventing every single monster in the city from being dragged out into the sun or set on fire. The characters are also rather memorable and all have lives and developing characteristics of their own. Most every character that is ever introduced into the book ends up coming back later, and even the most ordinary characters are made into interesting characters with lives, not just another name to look at and casually remember throughout the book incase they end up coming into play again.

All of this development does sort of cause a problem that Hamilton seems to have overlooked, however. Though it's balanced out with the supporting characters, Anita is the main character, and thus ends up developing the most. This wouldn't be too bad, but it's done in horrendous excess. Trying to explain exactly how would potentially spoil the books for those looking to read them, but in D&D terms, Anita would end up being something like a character that was a level 10 fighter, level 6 mage with the necromancer specialization, level 8 rogue, and like a level 5 ranger. She essentially ends up being everything at once, and it gets to be really sort of laughable in her infinite arsenal of acquired powers. As of this writeup Hamilton hasn't officially planned to continue the series past the current book, Cerulean Sins, but if she does, she really needs to do something about that.

In conclusion, this book isn't for everyone, and isn't exactly among the greatest literary accomplishments of the century by any means, but it's still at least an entertaining read if you're a fan of vampire and other preternatural mythology and can stomach some of the darker and raunchier content. Most people who read the books either like them or hate them, few have an in between standpoint, which is totally understandable. It's something you can at least kill some time with if you're bored. Go pick up Guilty Pleasures at Borders or Barnes and Noble when you have nothing better to do and give it a few chapters (or the entire book if you want to spend a few hours blatantly being a cheapskate). Give it a chance. Maybe you'll like it, and at worst, you'll have passed an hour or two of time you'd otherwise spend doing nothing.

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