The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix is the latest from the author who brought us Horrorstor and My Best Friend’s Exorcism. I enjoyed those two, silly though they were, so I was excited to get an advanced copy of this latest horror-comedy novel.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires takes place in the early-mid 1990s in a small southern town. After burning out of a more respectable book club, Patricia Campbell is invited to a less-formal “not-a-book-club” that alternates true crime titles such as Helter Skelter and The Stranger Beside Me with less-gritty fiction, like The Bridges of Madison County. After part of her ear is bitten off by an elderly neighbor, Patricia becomes convinced that the woman’s grand-nephew, James Harris, is up to no good–perhaps with supernatural implications. Dubbed Steel Magnolias meets Dracula, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires includes a little satanic panic, a little Desperate Housewives, and shockingly little vampire slaying.
At first blush, I thought that this book was going to be Hendrix’s best yet. As I read further, however, I found myself looking down at the percentage marker on my Kindle and wondering where the vampires were. How had I gotten this far through the story without anything actually happening? That turned out to be most of the book. There are some genuinely funny bits of dialogue in this novel and I loved the interactions between the women. Whenever the husbands or the children barge in, the story starts to get muddled. I actually wonder if this narrative would have been better served by alternating perspectives between Patricia, her friend Slick, and James Harris. At any rate, as much as I enjoyed the characters, I wanted more actual story. At times, the insertion of lurking evil in a very sleepy setting reminded me of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. I wanted more of that.
Once I’m back in the library, I would seriously hesitate to recommend this book to fans of horror and of vampire novels. At least in our library, our readers of those genres can tend toward the more purist side of the spectrum. There is really not a lot of vampire stuff in this book. A lot of the times I laughed or felt really drawn into the story were the moments that dwelled more on the true crime books and how people thought Patricia’s imagination had just run away with her. There is some good stuff here about tropes on women as true crime consumers and on the tendency for women’s instincts to get brushed off as hysteria. There is not a lot of horror, despite someone’s earlobe getting bitten off in the first act.
I was provided with a free e-galley of this title in exchange for an honest review.