Hit List (Anita Blake #20) by Laurell K. Hamilton
A serial killer is hunting the Pacific Northwest, murdering victims in a gruesome and spectacular way. The local police suspect “monsters” are involved, and have called in Anita Blake and Edward, US Marshals who really know their monsters, to catch the killer.
But some monsters are very real. The Harlequin have been the bogeymen of the vampire world for more than a thousand years; they are a secret so dark that even to speak their name can earn you a death sentence. Now they are here in America, hunting weretigers…and human police.
The Harlequin serve the Mother of All Darkness, the first vampire. She was supposed to be dead, but only her body was destroyed. Now she needs a new one, and she’s decided that Anita Blake’s is the body she wants. Edward thinks the serial killings are a trap to lure Anita closer to the most dangerous vampire they’ve ever hunted. The vampires call Edward “Death,” and Anita the “Executioner,” but Mommy Darkest is coming to kill one and possess the other, and she doesn’t care how many others have to die along the way.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I was so excited when Hit List showed up in my mailbox. It got here sooner than anticipated and it came on a day when I didn’t have any plans, so I was able to snuggle up on the couch and read it all at once. I love being able to sit down and consume a book in a single sitting but I don’t often have the opportunity so it was a pretty exciting moment. (I know, I need to get out more.)
Hit List is Anita’s twentieth outing and, in many ways, it felt like a return to form since there was a lot of emphasis on the non-sexual stuff in the novel. Laurell K. Hamilton has created a compelling story that builds on the events of the previous book, Bullet, and offers a satisfying blend of action and crime fighting, which reminded me a lot of the earlier Anita Blake books. Plus, Anita’s in Seattle this time around so most of her men aren’t featured, which was good since there are so many characters in the series now and I sometimes forget about some of the newer ones, particularly her newer sex partners, unless they make a big splash like Haven did. Thankfully, there are some familiar faces in this book, like Edward, Olaf, and Bernard, which was a lot of fun since I recently re-read Obsidian Butterfly. Olaf is even creepier this time around, which I didn’t think was possible, and there are some neat developments in his relationship with Anita (if we can call it that).
My favourite part of the book, hands down, is the interactions between Anita and Edward. Their relationship has grown so much over the course of the series and it’s great to see the two of them on their own again, tracking bad guys and brandishing weapons and, in Anita’s case, having some realizations about how important their friendship really is. They can be completely themselves with each other, without any sexual overtones, and I find it so refreshing since Anita’s world is often all about the sex. Plus, Edward is dangerous as heck and you know there’s going to be some quality action whenever he’s on the scene.
I should take a moment to mention how well researched Laurell K. Hamilton’s books are. Or at least seem to be, since I’m no expert on police procedure. Everything seems plausible and grounded and I really admire her for taking the extra steps to maintain authenticity when it comes to the parts of her story that have real-world counterparts. It adds so much to her work. (Of course, I am generally willing to follow an author wherever s/he goes, so long as everything is consistent within their world building.)
My one complaint with Hit List, and it’s a tiny one, is that the battle in the climax of the story felt a little rushed. Maybe that was me trying to get to the end, but I think after all the build up I was hoping for something truly epic, which wasn’t entirely what we got. SPOILER ALERT – HIGHLIGHT TO READ THE TEXT IF YOU DARE While it did have grand moments, I think it was the fact that Anita and the Mother of All Darkness were fighting metaphysically rather than physically, so there wasn’t the same sense of action that you get throughout the novel when Anita and company are fighting the Harlequin. SPOILER ENDS
No, I lie, I do have one other small complaint: the cover. I loved the aesthetic of the more recent books and so I was bummed to see that they’ve gone in (yet another) different direction. The new cover doesn’t do it for me. The colours are cool but I’m not really sure who the woman is. Is it Anita? She has blonde eyebrows and doesn’t look all that petite and curvy, so I don’t think it can be. This begs the question: who is it? It doesn’t look like anyone I remember from the book. Plus, I want to know who the mysterious shadow man next to the title is. At first I thought he was supposed to be a Harlequin but he’s not wearing a mask. Blargh. On a more positive note, the Laurell K. Hamilton looks absolutely amazing in her author photo on the back cover. I hope I look that good one day.
In any case, no matter what, I remain a huge fan of the series and can’t wait to see what happens next since Hit List really opens up the possibilities for future stories. Thanks, Ms. Hamilton!