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I cannot remember having the pleasure of reading a book by Laurell K. Hamilton, so had no specific expectations about Crimson Death (2016. 708 pages), the current novel which continues her Anita Blake series of vampire novels.
Anita is woken from a slumber to be informed, by a close associate, that there have been a series of gruesome murders in Ireland. For reasons unknown Ireland, at the time, is free of any vampire activity, so the murders are unusual enough to warrant Anita's attention. This is a fairly straight forward premise and I was expecting to see Anita and friends embark for said emerald isle to work their way through the mystery, possibly with some thriller elements to compliment the police procedural in a move towards the apprehension of the bad guy.
What I didn’t expect was to have to wade through half of the book being exposed to the relationship neurosis of the main characters before the story finally gets to Ireland where, to be honest, not much happens either.
I’m guessing that both the author and her readers have stayed the course for this, the twenty-fifth novel in the series, because they have invested a lot of time on the characters and so the enjoyment of the book comes not from an original plot, but just from spending time with them, the same sort of voracious desire seen in other franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek.
Unfortunately for the casual reader without this investment the plot reads like navel gazing whilst slowly wading through treacle. The truth is I didn’t really like Anita as a character, she comes over as narcissistic, at best and some the choices that Hamilton has made in the portrayal of other characters is dubious at times, as the story crosses morally acceptable boundaries in its relation to non-consensual sex.
Is it written well? It is certainly in structure written competently, but I think the problem is that after twenty-four previous novels it feels like Hamilton’s plots are running dry and the attempt to fill pages with just her characters emotional baggage is not enough to sustain a novel of this size.