I could begin by saying that when I first saw this series on the shelves at my local bookstore that I was attracted to reading it by the 'glowing' (or perhaps in hindsight, 'gushing') staff review. I could also start by admitting that it took me 10 books (out of 22 to date) into the series before I just could not put up with the way the original idea had been twisted and perverted into some kind of grotesque caricature of itself. I could even link to some reviews
which voice a lot of what I felt about this series better than I could myself.
However, I've decided to be (somewhat) fair.
Instead I will review each of these books as a stand-alone, with a rating applicable to each, rather than one whole rating and review for the whole (which, if I was to do, would be so similar to Kat's review linked above as to be superfluous).
The story is set in present time St Louis, Missouri but could esily be transposed to pretty much any medium-to-large metropolitan city, making world-building a non-issue. Very few people could pick up this book and not picture in their minds eye the events happening in their own city by tansposing various areas with their own local equivalents.
The major premise is that the undead (vampires, zombies, etc) actually exist in the "real world" is, in my opinion, a fun and interesting idea. Perhaps it was also this that originally attracted me to the series?
That, however, was to be about the best thing about this book (and series)..
The protagonist, Anita Blake, is quite probably one of the most shallow, self-absorbed, arrogant.... women (Bitch?) I have ever encountered, either in fiction or 'real life'..... but I must resist the temptation to derail the review so early.
Anita is an 'animator', able to raise the dead in zombie form. She's also the local vampire 'executioner', and on retainer with the local metro police as their resident 'preternatural expert'. Hmmm. My 'Mary Sue' sense is twitch-... no, no... must not derail.
So the plot revolves around Anita being approached by an agent of the mysterious "Master of the City", the vampire in charge of all vampiric activites within the city (but not the actual 'master' of all the vampires in the creation sense), to investigate the deaths of numerous vampires around town. Sounds feasible right? I mean, who better to look into who is killing these powerful undead creatures than the very person who is licenced to execute them if they break the law? Uhhh...
Initially Anita rejects the offer, only to be blackmailed into doing the Master's bidding when her friend is seduced and entranced by a vampire. All this on just the first 36 pages!! Talk about fast-paced!! And that doesn't include being called out to give her professional opinion to the police on a case of corpse-tampering!!
To be honest, as an investigator Anita makes a pretty good 'animator'. Banned from going to the police (under threat of 'something bad' happening to her friend) Anita bumbles around town, trying to track down the unknown killer. She attends a 'freak' party (which is worse than it sounds), chases the vaguest of leads, and generally goes nowhere fast (meanwhile anyone with any experience in the crime/mystery genre has already figured out who the killer is... and we've still got 100 pages of the book to go).
Oh and did I mention that during this time she also picks up two of the four 'marks' required to make her a vampire's human servant? All while simultaneously proclaiming that she would kill any vampire that did such to her, laws be damned? Yeah.
Eventually Anita manages to piece it all together (after it is all laid out in front of her, along with a complete set of strp-by-step instructions) solve the mystery, kill the bad guy (AND the 'Master of the City' at the same time), thus allowing the vampire who has 'marked' her to become the new 'Master'.
All in all (and with some suspension of disbelief) the story isn't really that bad... if you are prepared to overlook patches of terrible writing and the overwhelming desire to reach into the book and slap Anita around the head for being the pompous, arrogant, smart-assed little bitch that she is.
Still it was kind of entertaining in its own way. 2.5 (rounded up to 3) stars.