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Monday, October 31, 2011

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton: Commentary for Readers and Writers, Chapters 31-35

'Happy Halloween!

Here’s the next round of Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton. For previous commentaries, check out chapters 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, and 25-30.



Chapter 31

Anita gets home to an apartment blessedly empty of potential assailants. She checks her messages and has one from Ronnie about an 11 a.m. meeting with HAV, showers, and reviews her current threats before dropping into bed and having another weird, blood filled dream about Jean-Claude.

Reader Comments: Okay, so now my guess is that Zachary is the vampire killer, and he’s killing the vamps to feed his voodoo charm that keeps him alive. Though, I suppose that could be a red herring. I’m also guessing that Jean-Claude is using the dreams to try and communicate with Anita.

Writer Comments: The dream was icky, creepy, and interesting. The blackberries Jean-Claude had because he missed them from his pre-vampire days added a humanizing touch. Plus, the meeting with HAV is something we readers should know about. However, most of the chapter involved a review of Anita’s threats and very limited, rather near nonexistent, options. It was a bit repetitive, and without the Jean-Claude dream would have come off as unnecessary.

Chapter 32

Anita’s alarm wakes her in time for church, but Dolph calls to let her know that there’s been another vampire murder. Anita hurries to get ready and make it to the murder site in time to satisfy the police.

Reader Comments: I’m just waiting for this murder to reveal a clue as to whether or not it was Zachary. I sort of want him to be the murderer.

Oh, I also liked the touch of faith with Anita revealing her habit of usual church attendance introduced at the beginning of this chapter. It makes her complex and more human.

Writer Comments: This scene is much better about infusing new tension into the story. It contains swift pacing, introduces new information that might or might not work off of the Zachary as murderer theory, depending on if I’m right, and ends with a question: What is the odd element of the murder that Dolph won’t tell Anita?

At the crime scene, Anita avoids the media and identifies the body with its head ripped off as Theresa.

Reader Comments: Yes! She’s dead. One satisfied bit of justice is done. And I’m leaning more toward Zachary as the killer with the knife marks—part of a ritual?—and the fact that Theresa was horrible to him.

Writer Comments: Very good scene. Tension from Anita and as the reader guessing who the killer is proves satisfying. There’s a payoff in that a character I hate, in a good way, finally dies. Yay! Reader yearnings satisfied enough to become reinvigorated by the plot, but more questions open up. Why, for example, does Anita start to suspect a human killer? And if human, how is he managing to murder vampires and rip off their heads?

Chapter 33

Anita meets the HAV contact at Ronnie’s office. The contact is Beverly Chin, a woman Anita once saved from a vampire and who saved her in return. Feeling indebted to Anita for Anita’s rescue, Bev volunteers to find out what Ronnie and Anita need to know from HAV.

Reader Comments: Characters like Bev, Ronnie, and most of the cast in this book have a feel about them that suggests they’ll comprise a returning crowd of helpers, antagonists, and victims throughout the series. I also like how Bev represents conflicting or, at least, dualistic qualities: association with a hate organization while still insisting on working through the system to counter vampires, brutally touched by violence and yet prettily composed as a petite lady.

Oh, and Hamilton, you wonderful evil author, I started to feel a little bad for Theresa at the beginning of this chapter because Anita does. Not fair. I wanted to keep reveling in her death.

Writer Comments: Not a lot happens in this chapter, but the character dynamic between Bev and Anita is so enthralling that it doesn’t matter. Even though Ronnie, Bev, and Anita are functionally on the same side at the moment, Hamilton creates a lovely tension by bringing in the past and using it to create tension in the characters’ present. Anita and Bev are certainly not friends, but because of the gruesome, horrific events they survived together, they share a bond too strong for either to ignore. Never forget how the past affects your characters’ present.

Chapter 34

Anita and Ronnie take a trip to the Church of Eternal Life to look for clues and set up an appointment with Malcolm, the vampire leader. After scaring the receptionist, Anita heads out with no more clues than before. But a shadow graces the door, Ronnie shoves Anita down, and someone starts shooting. Anita kills the man first and waits for the police.

Reader Comments: This chapter was an interesting interplay of what seem to be Anita’s two main character traits: compassion and intimidating toughness. So since my favored theory at the moment is Zachary as murderer, I’m guessing he sent the assassin because, after their mutual zombie raising, he knows Anita has enough information about his secret to figure out that he’s the vampire killer.

Writer Comments: If you take a look at the description of the church in this chapter, you have a great example of using description and scenery to invoke emotion and mood and to portray the character of a place and organization. From the lack of religious symbolism to the clean walls and stained glass, even down to the fact that Anita and Ronnie must walk through the sanctuary to reach the office and that not a soul but Bruce the secretary is visible presents a chilling, controlled image that both contrasts with the violent attack the church supposedly inflicted on the freak party and perfectly meshes with the reputation they attempt to present.

Chapter 35

Anita meets Malcolm, who denies the church’s involvement in the murders and notices that Anita has been touched by a master vampire. But before Malcolm has the chance to deny involvement in everything, Anita uses her minutes alone in the office to flip through the appointment book. Two days before the first murder is an entry in a different hand than Bruce’s that mentions an appointment with Ned. Anita assumes this is Edward and that Edward is the murderer. But can she stomach turning a human over to the vampires?

Reader Comments: I think Anita is on the wrong trail here; though, I assume it will eventually lead her to the right one. If Edward was the murderer, why would he break from the usual murder pattern and ask Anita for Nikolaos’s sleeping place? Plus, stabbing then ripping a vamp’s head off doesn’t strike me as his style. He wouldn’t have the strength for it anyway.

Writer Comments: Hamilton presents in the book a wide array of vampires and their cliques. We have Jean-Claude and his club, Nikolaos and her frightening bunch, the freak party goers, and now Malcolm and the Church of Eternal Life. All make the vampires more real, for undead or not, they started off as human and obviously retain some human tendencies like the habit of forming groups and rivalries. Clearly, though this book is fairly short, Hamilton put a tremendous amount of thought into the creation of her world. This planning and forethought paid off in a book that feels more real and vibrates with more possibilities than the average, run of the mill novel.

Join me next Monday for the next round of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Guilty Pleasures. Until then, have a wonderful and safe Halloween!

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