The Laughing Corpse [1994]

After discussing Anita Blake a few times recently, I thought I’d better quickly re-read one of them to check whether I was remembering it correctly. I only own two of the series, The Laughing Corpse and Burnt Offerings.

It was pretty much as I remembered it. The writing grated on me a bit in places, but more-or-less as I’d remembered it had the usual sorts of hardboiled stuff happening, with a supernatural twist. At this early stage in the proceedings, it’s still about a plot, rather than an excuse for protracted and improbable sexual entanglements. Like early Piers Anthony I guess.

In terms of the investigation story… you start off the story with really one main suspect, and it turns out to be that suspect. So from that point of view its not that satisfying, and I can’t really buy into the motivations in play for the villains too much. There’s also a potentially unnecessary amount of grandstanding and everyone seems more antagonistic than is really necessary.

In comparison to the Dresden Files books that I’ve read recently, Anita Blake seems to have a significantly harder edge, but far less of a human interest. Which is not out of line for detective fiction: what I can tell you about Philip Marlowe or Poirot could fit on a 3*5 index card with spare space (I mean, one card for both!) It seems to be a little less formula than Dresden Files, and Blake seems less like a punching bag than a protagonist, whereas I felt in both the first two Dresden stories that the poor guy took a hell of a pounding so that it started to feel almost routine. And finally: the Blake novel seems to have a more tight focus, with fewer moving parts interacting in the story.

The conclusion… it was perfectly adequate for an afternoon’s reading entertainment. It’s not going to change how anyone thinks about people, detectives or vampires, but it’s not going to actually rot your brain either. Well, maybe a little, but no worse than an episode of Magnum PI or House.

Roll on Grave Peril, and then I guess I’d better go back to reading something with a bit of actual intellectual weight. Unfortunately, that almost certainly means picking up Ellroy’s Blood’s A Rover, which is compelling and affecting and excellently written… but isn’t exactly a change in genre. Actually, it’s almost certainly more horrific than anything Hamilton or Butcher could even dream about writing.

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