Laurell K. Hamilton
The Laughing Corpse (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 2)
Penguin (US: 2nd August 2005; CA: 29th September 2009); Hachette Headline (UK: 3rd September 2009; AU: November 2009)
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Anita Blake can raise the dead, and is usually willing to pay the price (killing a chicken). However, the older the zombie, the higher the cost, and to meet overtly wealthy Harold Gaynor’s requirements she’ll have to make a human sacrifice. Anita may be known as the Executioner, but there are some things a self-respecting animator won’t do, no matter how many millions are offered to her. And no matter how much she’s tortured.
There’s a good reason readers have fond memories of these early Anita books – they’re bloody good. This, the second in the series, may be fifteen years old, but it’s aged rather well. The content is fascinating, the characters are suitably annoying and/or creepy, and Anita has toy penguins. Not a shag in the novel, though she admits her lust for an emopire who wears a really hideous shirt, Jean-Claude, but he declares her lust is “desire”. Vampires are habitually up themselves, so this should come as a surprise to no one.
And it’s nice to see Anita strike up a new friendship-of-convenience of sorts. Private investigator Veronica Sims may not be good enough for her, but prostitute Wheelchair Wanda is more than just someone from whom to get dirt on Gaynor. Speaking of Harold, he is one sick bastard, but still not the scariest character in the story. That honour is reserved for Dominga Salvador, for whom with much power comes…well, that woman is seriously effed in the head, and not in a “diagnosed mental illness” way, but rather “she’s totally sane and gets her jollies off these horrible things”. Just wait ’til you meet the monster – some broken pieces should never be put together…
The Laughing Corpse does seem somewhat slow, but so do all the other LKH books I’ve read. Still, I pretty much read the last half in one sitting, and it’s an absolute cracker. Quality novels like this make me feel all the more disappointed that the series later jumped the shark.