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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Laughing Corpse 

By Laurell K. Hamilton
Ace Books, 1994

First, some business. You may have noticed in the sub-heading that I haven't listed the number of pages in the book. I've done that for all other book reviews so you can get an idea what you're in for should you decide to read the book. I didn't do that here because I read this book as part of a hardbound compilation of three Anita Blake novels, so the page count wouldn't be accurate for the version you'd find in the bookstore. But it's not long, and it's a very fast read.

Speaking of Anita Blake, I first made her acquaintance in Guilty Pleasures, the first book in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. I remember buying it with a gift certificate at Borders, and as I read the summary, I couldn't help thinking that Anita Blake was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But I like that show, so I decided to give the book a try. What did I have to lose? I had the gift certificate, so I paid nothing for it.

Anyway, I loved Guilty Pleasures, so it was now time for the second book in the series, The Laughing Corpse. This one is just as good, if not better.

For those of you not familiar with Ms. Blake, she's a short (about 5-4 or so), tough, spunky, brassy babe who works as an animator. An animator raises people from the dead for a fee. However, she also moonlights as a vampire killer. She had killed about a dozen or so before Congress passed a law making it illegal to kill a vampire without a court's permission.

As you can tell, this is much different than Buffy. In the TV show, vampires and demons are the stuff of legend, and only Buffy and her pals know of their existence and the danger they pose. In Anita Blake's world, the supernatural is well-known and incorporated into everyday life. What makes Hamilton a great writer is that despite the familiarity with monsters, she still makes them scary. Unlike in Buffy, in which vamps are helpless props and undead punching bags, Hamilton's vampires are powerful and dangerous. Blake rightly fears and respects them, especially since they have begun to attain an appearance of respectability. They're objects of fascination and attraction for clueless humans, but Blake knows how dangerous they are.

So that's the background. In short, Hamilton has created a compelling alternative world in which to cast her characters. And her characters are vivid and likeable, and the bad guys are deliciously bad, except for some vampires who help Anita, and the master vampire who is determined to make Anita Blake his human servant. So there are some gray areas between good and evil, but they don't muck up the moral picture, but instead give it breadth and depth.

In The Laughing Corpse, Blake deals with a wealthy millionaire who wants her to commit murder by raising an ancient corpse, a powerful voodoo queen, and a series of ghastly murders that have the police searching for a killer zombie or ghoul. There's also that pesky master vampire.

The action is taut, the writing is tight, and the characters are fleshed out and real. It's got a lot of gore. And the ending is fantastic, as Anita Blake discovers just how powerful her own animator magic can be.

I know I'm way behind, but I intend to read every book in the series. You should too.

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