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Book Review: True Blood & Desperate Housewives collide in Grady Hendrix's vampire novel

I'm an absolute sucker for vampires. I've watched the CW's "The Vampire Diaries" and "The Originals" three times each, forced all of my friends to watch "True Blood," and I'm still thoroughly obsessed with the "Twilight" saga. I am practically an expert in vampire media, and boy, do I have a new one to add to your TBR.

Enter "The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires" by Grady Hendrix. In 1990s Charleston, South Carolina, Patricia Campbell's book club isn't the usual suburban book club your mother goes to once a month. Tearful, thought-provoking novels don't bring these women together–true crime is their genre of choice, and these women delight in the gore and horror of it all.

When a newcomer arrives in town, Patricia tries to welcome the handsome and worldly James Harris into their tight-knit Charleston community. Then, children begin dying.

If you're expecting a Southern-esque Buffy or Van Helsing, you won't find it here. Hendrix takes the classic vampire trope and gives it a Southern makeover. Although James Harris has a few of the tell-tale signs of vampirism–an aversion to sunlight, control over vermin, and everlasting youth–the similarities stop there. His molasses-soaked charm and good looks disarm his suburban neighbors, allowing the unexplainable sack of thousands of dollars in cash, lack of identification to open a bank account, and aversion to sunlight to slide by without a second glance. Rather than rooting James in monstrosity, Hendrix ties his Southern vampire in true crime and asserts that he is more than just a wolf in sheep's clothing–proving to be an even more terrifying monster.

The ensemble of bored housewives and their delight in gory perversions are all too accurate given the rise of true crime content, especially in the 1990s. Although their fascination with the dark and twisted is at times baffling, the true crime book club is the foundation of their friendship. So often, women aren't allowed to enjoy their interests and steered toward "socially acceptable" interests as kids, so seeing women enjoying their gory interests takes a (literal and figurative) stab at societal norms in the 90s.

As a kid raised around sophisticated Southern women, the passive-aggressive commentary and humor made me feel like I was sitting around the kitchen table with my classy great-aunts. All in all, Hendrix's portrayal of well-to-do Southern women was scarily accurate. If you were raised in the South, you'll find yourself giggling at the Southern Book Club's melodramatic commentary.

Beyond the murderous events and clever wit, Hendrix utilizes female hysteria and believability to mind-fuck Patricia's apprehension toward James. Every time Patricia seems close to unveiling James' perversions, he spins a well-meaning tale. He directs her hysterics toward her reluctant husband–undermining her memories and beliefs surrounding the murders of neighborhood children. It's truly a feat to weave such hysteria and paranoia into a novel so effortlessly and make readers even question Patricia or the narrator's thoughts.

Be warned: this is not a novel for the squeamish. Gore is around every corner, and if you aren't a fan of vermin, you've been warned. There's one particular scene in an attic that will haunt me in my dreams for the next few days (if you know, you know).

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