A few weeks ago, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and stressed and was looking for a good book to escape in - an engrossing page turner that sucks you in and doesn't require a lot of thinking but also doesn't insult your intelligence. This is where I ended up after a misguided side trip into Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark which I,found easy to read but kind of silly.
This volume contains the first 3 books (Guilty Pleasures,The Laughing Corpse and Circus of the Damned) in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series and it totally fit the bill for what I was looking for. After the first one I was hooked and devoured the next two.
These first three books are tightly plotted mysteries mixed with horror and the supernatural. They take place in St. Louis in an alternate reality to our own where all seem basically the same except for vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures are newly recognized legal citizens. Anita Blake is the intriguing main character. She is a reanimator - she raises zombies - which is not only okay but is a business now. You can raise a murder victim and ask them who killed them, or a relative who didn't leave a will and ask them to explain their wishes. Very convenient. When she's not reanimating corpses she is a legal vampire executioner and a consultant for the police's preternatural crime team. And while she has these supernatural abilities and a fascination with the preternatural she is terrified of and a bit disgusted by the creatures in societies midst, particularly vampires. She deals with her fear by cloaking herself in layers upon layers of bad assitude.
In these first three books Anita is a great cahracter - independent, a little bitchy, sarcastic and brazen though the author makes sure we always see her inner fear and vulnerability. She is also rather isolated, a workaholic, who seems afraid of dependency and connection. I did have one little nitpick - Anita's age, which is 24 and doesn't fit with the battle-hardened, scarred, weary and wise warrior Hamilton portrays. Another fascinating character that Hamilton teases us with is the enigmatic vampire Jean-claude who with mixed motives is extremely interested in Anita. Hamilton doesn't overdo it with Jean-claude - he's in the books enough to whet your appetite for more and that's about it.
So I recommend all beginning three of this series. They are great stories with interesting characters and a little bit of an adrenalin rush. They can be quite gory so beware if you're squeamish.
I have since moved on to the next four and sadly the quality doesn't last in my opinion but these three are great reads!