One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor's handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in.
It feels weird to call a blood-soaked horror novel writhing with creepy-crawlies a delight, but these are strange times, and indie horror writer Grady Hendrix...is the patron saint of strange ... as unexpected as its title, a Southern-fried feminist take on well-worn lore that makes it feel fresh ... Amidst the blood bath that ensues is some sophisticated social commentary on the nature of feminine bonding and about the appeal of true crime, and why women in particular gravitate toward cautionary tales of real-life horror ... Make no mistake: This is a proper horror novel and not for the squeamish (if you have a particular aversion to vermin, consider yourself duly warned). But its incisive social commentary and meaningful character development make The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires not just a palatable read for non-horror fans, but a winning one.
... This is the crux of the book ... When you realize that it’s not just a horror story, but a story about misogyny, rage, anger, and the indignities that women had to endure in order to survive, to be respectable, to be considered proper women. Grady Hendrix does not shy away from the indignity of women’s lives in the nineties in the south ... The gory, bodily horror is truly horrific, but the way that grown-ass, capable, responsible women are treated, dismissed, and denied the ability to think for themselves, is what really makes you want to scream ... Book Club doesn’t ignore the intersection of classism and racism that makes this community vulnerable. The book itself tries very hard to make the white women aware of their complicit systemic racism and harm that they inflict on the Black community, but without a deeper inspection of the Black characters and problems, it feels at points like a literary bromide ... .. Hendrix is a master of characterization. The members of the Book Club are all beautifully faceted and sharp, tart and prim and proper, and all at once fierce and furious. They are also peak Southerners ... I will stress, one more time, that while this book has a soft start, which feels like it will be a slow ramp up to desiccated horror fest, it is instead a fireworks display. It lulls you into watching, waiting for the horror, and when it comes it is startling, visceral, disturbing, and hard to read. Like all great fireworks shows, the horror is not easy to predict, and it’s hard to watch without flinching. This isn’t your mother’s vampire story ... It’s a brutal book, and the happy ending comes at a high cost. Book Club lures you in with the bucolic setting, charming women, and Southern affect, but when it turns, it does a hairpin one-eighty, goes and spins sedys in the police parking lot while screaming obscenities, then turns around and delivers the vigilante-style vindication that we—and Patricia—so desperately deserve.
The title already tells us what to expect, so the reader anxiously waits for Patricia to realize what’s going on from the ample evidence ... By the time Patricia ventures out to uncover the mystery, the action is overdue. The author’s usual knack for pacing and structure ends up uneven here, in part because the breakneck fun of the vampire stuff is hampered by the underdeveloped characters. Still, it’s enjoyably breezy pulp ... he author remains excellent at staging page-turning sequences of excitement and anxiety ... Still, it’s a bit of a letdown from an author who’s better at dealing with characters who act and think in simplistic ways for more understandable reasons. The gimcrack pleasures of Slaying Vampires are like its undead antagonist: flashy and engaging in the action, but strangely hollow at its heart.