book review, horror

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

What if Dracula went up against some suburban mothers? This book tells such a tale.

When Patricia joined the unofficial book club, where each month they discuss different true crime and horror books, she never thought she’d become such good friends with the other women. There’s right wound Grace, who does everything perfectly. Feminist Maryellen, who is married to a cop, so she can comment on the authenticity of the literature they’re reading. Kitty, who has five kids and a sprawling property. And Slick, who is very earnest, and pretends she’s at bible study so her husband will let her out of the house.

When tall, handsome James Harris moves into the sweet yellow house down the road, Patricia thinks she’s made another friend, but when strange things start happening, the only thing she knows for certain is that her life will never be the same again.

I am conflicted about this book.

It is very well written, and Hendrix’ style keeps you reading through all the inconsistencies and character issues, which become a much bigger problem once you’ve finished the book and start thinking about it. The prose is so light and engaging that I struggled to put the book down, and completed it in two sittings. That is not an inconsiderable accomplishment, given that the book is over 400 pages long.

For the first half of the book, which is set over a ten year period between the late 1980s to 1990s, my niggling complaint was that there wasn’t very much vampire action, however I enjoyed reading about the moms and their book club choices.

However, the second half of the book revealed bigger issues for me, which caused much discussion in my head about what I wanted the book to be, what it was, and whether I was being unfair on the latter because of the former.

Recently I read The Odyssey. You may have read my review, or seen my buddy read discussion with Joe. Abnormally gifted creatures aside, women in Ancient Greece didn’t have much freedom. They were sex objects, possessions, and constantly subjected to a double standard of behavior by the men. Despite this, Homer writes the female characters as real women, with motivation and personality, and while they may be constrained by their social structure, they are not in any way defeated by it.

Why this interlude about Ancient Greece you may ask? Because the rich white southern women in the 1990s depicted in this book seem to have less freedom than the serving maids in Odysseus’ house. Subjugated by their masters, I mean husbands, the five main characters can’t think or act unless they’ve been given permission by their other half.

I expected a horror comedy that would have plenty of vampire slaying by capable women, who are more commonly associated with nurturing and caring, but who are also protective lionesses making sure their family is well looked after. Something like The Lost Boys, but with moms.

I love that idea for a book, but this is not that book. Despite its fantastic title, this is a book about evil entering a loving community and stealing its heart. That evil so happens to be a vampire, but it is much more closely aligned to the murderers in the serial killer books the characters read. That’s a really interesting idea for a book too, and an examination of how evil can flourish under the noses of so called good people is always fascinating to read. However, the characters are too lightly sketched, and their behavior too unrealistic, for me to say that the author came anywhere near to shining a light on such circumstances.

Despite its many shortcomings, this novel is so engaging and well written that, much like a charming vampire, you forgive it even when it’s sucking.

I award The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is available for $13.98 ebook and $22.99 print book on Amazon.

10 thoughts on “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix”

  1. Sounds like a talented author! I love the idea of the book you thought it was going to be, but the idea of evil entering a loving community is a great subject as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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