Thursday, July 09, 2009

Skin Trade – review

Author: Laurell K Hamilton

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: I’d worked my share of serial killer cases, but none of the killers had ever mailed me a human head. That was new.

My name is Anita Blake and my reputation has taken some hits. Not on the work front, where I have the highest kill count of all the legal vampire executioners in the country, but on the personal front. No one seems to trust a woman who sleeps with the monsters. Still, when a vampire serial killer sends me a head from Las Vegas, I know I have to warn Sin City’s local authorities what they’re dealing with.

Only its worse than I thought: several police officers and an executioner have been slain paranormal style. When I get to Las Vegas I’m joined by three other federal marshals. Which is a good thing because I need all the backup I can get when hunting a killer this powerful and dangerous.

The review: Anita Blake is back… and many of you will know how long it is that I have been waiting to say that as when I say she is back I also mean that Hamilton is back on track. The series has been marred by a decent into hardcore porn and soap opera story lines. This is more like old school Anita Blake (but with the writing as improved as later Hamilton was, on a technical level).

That’s not to say there is no sex in this, though – and those who read the last few novels will gasp to hear – it doesn’t occur until page 390. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with sex scenes in a novel, my own novelhas sex scenes aplenty. But the difference was, to me, that my scenes meant something story wise and the vampires used sex as an extension of power – Anita is a victim to her succubian urges.

However in Skin Trade the sex is story necessary, it actually brings a story resolution and this is because Anita ceases to be a victim of her own powers but uses it as a power. A necessary sea change that signifies that Hamilton has ceased to go for titillation and has actually developed a worthwhile story.

If I had a complaint it would be that the occasional characters Edward and Olaf, both major parts of this story, are not at their best. Edward is by far one of my favourite Hamilton characters and Olaf makes my stomach churn but is a fantastic reminder that it is not always the monster that is monstrous. Whilst they are still interesting parts of the story they are perhaps not at their peak (storywise) but one feels that any curtailing was due to the urban setting and that actually worked well in terms of the location and the fact that they were stuck with the cops through most of the book.

This is the best Hamilton read I’ve had since around Obsidian Butterfly and Narcissus in Chains. Hopefully Hamilton will now remain on track but I hoped that after things seemed to turn around with the Harlequin, but Blood Noir proved otherwise. Hopefully the return to form can be maintained this time. 7.5 out of 10.


Dracufan said...

Agreed this is a definite return to form for Hamilton. Not quite the noir thriller that was Guilty Pleasures or the balls to the wall rollercoaster that was Obsidien Butterfly but still an enjoyable read. My only complaints would be the story resolution was in someways a tad rushed and did not do the narrative justice so far as the tension of earlier scenes and also that two "big bads" were dispatched with relative ease in the end. Ah well. One can't have everything.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

fair comments, cheers for the input Dracufan