Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

‘He thinks we’re what we look like on the outside: nice Southern ladies. Let me tell you something…there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.’

****Trigger warnings for rape, domestic abuse, gaslighting, racism, gore, child abuse, classism, animal injuries and death of a parent.****

So it’s been a while since I visited the vampire TBR! Bit of background, I’m not someone who really does TBRs, in case you’re new here. I don’t know how many books I own and haven’t read and I don’t set myself monthly book lists. But I do love vampires! I have a set of vampire books I did set out last year that I wanted to get to and I have been. Slowly. So I picked this one up for that and spooky season and this both made me very mad as well as happy to have read it.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community

I’ve only read one of Grady Hendrix’s books in the past and that was My Best Friend’s Exorcism. That book is still living in a special part of my heart for the time I read it and I was only too happy that there was a foreword from Hendrix explaining that both this book and that one take place in the same setting/neighborhood but at different times. Also thank you for pointing out a neighbourhood I would never like to live in.

This story is from the perspective of Patricia Campbell, surburban mom and housewife. A nurse previous to her marriage. There’s something I could really get behind with Patricia and her other friends in her book club. I think it’s that idea support network that you can trust and rely on to remember you are a human with layers and not solely a mom, or a wife and so on. But I also love how over the novel, there’s real touching moments where they genuinely help each other. And I feel in more domestic stories like this where it’s focussed more on a horror in say suburbia or more remote locations, that it adds another tension to the plot. It worked especially well in this case as well.

I overall enjoyed Patricia as well. She was someone with a lot of heart and did make genuine mistakes in places. Her most tender side is definitely on show with her children and her resilience through all she goes through was very hard not to feel for. I particularly love her capacity to care for others she knows need it most, despite any misgivings. She may be a flawed person but she cares more about her elderly infirm mother in law, the part of town where black children are going missing without much news and she cares that her husband, despite being a doctor, might not be the best one for prescribing her medication. She has a built in strength, like all the other house wives in her book club, that made her such an interesting main character.

We need to get to the vampires. The vampire in question. Well it has been a while since a vampire novel of all things made me angry. But in a good way. And what I mean by that is James Harris is every man who has caused me pain, who has stepped on the needy and abused any power ever. I loathed everything about him and it just made me mad that men like him, who manipulate, ruin and destroy peoples lives just still exist. Nice move making him a vampire! My angers aside, the vampire lore in this is slim on the ground which kinda works in the context of the story far better than something like Fledgling would. But this also gave him a lot more of a yuck factor, as in less romantic and tragic and more diseased and something of vile horror. So that was excellent.

This being a horror book, it was full to the brim with the excellent way Grady Hendrix writes it. Moments of visceral, chilling scares that got me in places because they are so level with the mundane that it feels even more scary to see them popping up. I will say my only criticism was how a I feel a few smaller threads were dropped in anticipation of getting to the climax of the story. It was a worthwhile pay off but I still felt a lot were closed off to get to it.

Overall, excellent vampire story with a newer premise. A very good read for October and another entry to Grady Hendrix being a great contributor to modern horror. Thanks for checking in guys! Happy reading!

★★★★/5

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