Title: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Author: Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pub Date: April 7th 2020 (I meant to post this days ago but I’ve been sick)
Notes: I was given a free advance copy in return for an honest review. With thanks to Stephen Haskins at Quirk books
Note 2: TW be aware that there is a potential attempted suicide as well as themes of child abuse, child death and scenes of horror.
Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her ambitious husband is too busy to give her a good-bye kiss in the morning, her kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on thank-you notes and her endless list of chores. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club. They are a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime and paperback fiction. At these meetings, they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are marriage, motherhood, and neighbourhood gossip.
This predictable pattern is upended when Patricia meets James Harris, a handsome stranger who moves into the neighbourhood to take care of his elderly aunt.
James is sensitive and well-read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in twenty years.
But there’s something off about him. He doesn’t have a bank account, he doesn’t like going out during the day, and Patricia’s mother-in-law insists that she knew him when she was a girl. When local children go missing, Patricia and the book club members start to suspect James is more than meets the eye. Have they read too many true crime books, or have they invited a real monster into their homes?
Touted as Steel Magnolias meet Dracula.
Patricia is as Stepford as you can get. Her life revolves around her ambitious husband, two demanding children and her mother-in-law who needs round the clock care. No wonder she feels like she’s losing herself. So she joins a book club. Not a classic ‘bettering yourself’ through the bleakest of novels, but a True Crime paperback group who slowly become more family than friends as they discuss serial killers, horrific crimes and the latest neighbourhood gossip.
But when handsome stranger James Harris suddenly shows up, Patricia becomes more intrigued by his life than the lives of her killers.
Her imagination goes a step further when children start to go missing and suddenly this stranger is more entwined in their lives than ever before, only Patricia wonders if his motives are what they appear.
Soon enough she is attempting to uncover his secrets which could be more deadly than they seem.
Months ago, before Corona forced us into lockdown and no one was hoarding toilet paper, a world that was so different from today, my husband took me to Turkey for a small holiday. There was sun, there was unlimited food and freedom and there were vampires.
Ok, so maybe their weren’t real Vampires, it was Turkey, not Romania.
I took this book on holiday with me and one day settled down to read it in the warm Turkish sun. I was captivated and enthralled and I was barely able to tear myself away long enough for lunch. My husband called me twice and I said “Just a minute, I’m enjoying a decapitation here!” much to the horror of the woman on the next sun-bed. Obviously I didn’t eat mincemeat for that meal.
This was a really good read; It was engaging and gripping and equal parts suspenseful mystery, horror and action, and it did all of those parts equally well.
One of the great things about this book was that it was a vampire story unlike any I’ve read before. There were similarities in that a stranger comes to town, doesn’t go out in the daylight and old Miss Harris thinks she remembers him as a young man. But this time the one who believes he is a monster isn’t an impressionable teen or a child but an upstanding member of the commuinty.-
And yet no one believes Patricia, because James is so good for the neighbourhood and also, because she is a woman. In fact, she is seen to be the villain as she insists on investigating the missing children and the odd occurrences in the town, much to the chagrin of her husband and his fine reputation.
Grady Hendrix is really good at writing the kind of gory horror that has your imagination shivering and your lunch repeating. A few times I said “EWWW!” out loud like a 90s teenager.
He also managed to evoke other emotions, like sheer anger and frustration.
Patricia’s husband had me so freaking angry I wanted to smack someone and I had a few words for my husband on the sins of the patriarchy and how much of a scum men were. (I don’t think my husband enjoyed me reading this book anywhere near as much as I did.) I could also feel Patricia’s frustration with her own life.
The interactions between Patricia and her book club friends, even the ones who let her down, was really interesting and to see which ones stood by her and which turned their backs was surprising. Those character arcs were well played out and a real joy to read.
There was a definite edge-of-seat feel during the final part of the book and the ending was fantastic.
If you’re a horror fan I’d highly recommend you give this one a go. It’s interesting, engaging and, often, downright disturbing.
Also, because I can, last year I bought my husband the Horrorstor which I only realised was by the same author when it came time to write this review. He adored it. Written as a sort of Ikea catalogue but with a murder mystery and equally horrible gory scenes. My husband stopped me from reading several times by poking me and going “Hey, hey, this is gross, listen to this…” and then reading selected portions out.
I haven’t got around to reading it yet but judging by the response from my husband, anything by Grady Hendrix is a good read.