The cover to The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is sweet and juicy with a teensy hint of gore. I just love the cool vibes of the illustration with the vampiric puncture marks on the peach. It doesn’t look like those gross, naff covers that you’d usually see in the horror genre. And, I suppose that’s what lured me in. I tend to hate the typical schlock-horror aesthetics and rarely read anything like this.
While the plot is blood-soaked, you could wring bucket loads of satire from the writing. Grady Hendrix takes time to describe the bland lives of suburban Southern wives living in 90s Charleston in between grisly details of vampire attacks.
Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.
But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighbourhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.
(From the publisher.)
So, I’m not typically a horror reader. Or watcher.
Fun fact: I recently saw the movie Hereditary as I’d heard good things. What a disappointment! In between being so very bored, I literally LOL’d at the ‘scary’ scenes.
When it comes to monsters, vampires and ghouls, my expectations and enjoyment tend to hover around the fairly ambivalent. This is well-trodden territory and I can’t suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the ride.
So with all that said and done, I can happily say that this book defied my expectations of dumb, campy maneuvres that horror story writers take and instead gave me a wry smile at its conclusion.
Slaying Vampires is a fresh, witty, satire-laden story that starts out innocently enough. And then — boom! out of nowhere — someone’s earlobe is bitten off.
“We’re a book club,” Maryellen said.
“What are we supposed to do? Read him to death? Use strong language?
I don’t think the biggest monster in the story is the vampire. It’s the rage-inducing, misogynistic societal expectation placed on housewives living in Charleston during the 90s, to be perfect and accommodating and congenial. That, and the inherent racism that would have abounded in that part of the world, and probably still does.
Hendrix lays this bare, rather than adding commentary. For me, that meant I was more squirmy about the attitude of men and white privilege than I was about the devilishly handsome vampire that was attacking the neighbourhood.
The plot dances so quickly between banal, suburban notions of vacuuming curtains and toe-curling, rodent-infested nightmare realities that you won’t have time to get bored. However I will say the pacing of the overall narrative felt off, because by the time our protagonist gets her butt into gear, it feels too late in the game. The characters feel underdeveloped; their embellishment and arcs forsaken for the action. Which is a shame, considering the themes introduced.
In a way, it’s a relief that a vampire turns up.
Overall, I’d recommend this peachy, breezy supernatural thriller for someone looking for an original and sassy story loaded with plenty of thrilling action.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.