One of the things that makes reading Grady Hendrix absolutely delicious is that Hendrix gives us a really normal story with really normal people but then things start to slide sideways. It’s a slow process – so slow you probably can’t pinpoint exactly when the slide began (and probably, the slide began before the first pages of the book – we just don’t realize it). And then at some point, the characters, and the readers, realize, “Whoa, this shit’s gone crazy!” but it’s too late to backpedal or to erase the picture in your mind of something rotten, putrid, scary, gross (or all four) that you just witnessed/read about. And then you and the characters are in a full-blown horror novel that’s probably only going to get worse, but like an accident on the side of the road, you can’t look away even if you wanted to.
Yeah, that’s what’s totally great about a Grady Hendrix novel.
The story: Patricia Campbell, once a nurse, gave up her career to marry a doctor. Her life is now tedious and dull with kids who are ungrateful and a husband often absent both physically and emotionally. The one thing she looks forward to is her book club and their shared love of true-crime and suspense novels.
Then a handsome, artistic stranger moves into the neighborhood and some local children go missing about the same time. The women of the book club spend their meetings discussing the stranger and the likelihood that he’s responsible for the missing children. Their conversations get Patricia more and more convinced that he’s the next Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer and she needs to investigate. What she discovers is much more terrifying than a cannibal mass-murderer.
If the title didn’t give it away, you might think you were reading some chick-lot book club pick and be completely surprised about two-thirds of the way in when it’s clear that the story has taken a twisted turn.
And for me, this is the best kind of horror fiction. Rather than trying to keep a steady stream of horror going through 2-3-400 pages, the delight here is know that we’re reading a horror novel and watching average people – our neighbors – slide into hell, and their frantic clawing and windmill-spinning arms as they try to keep from slipping away, but the ichor and gore under their feet just keeps them slipping.
This is only the fourth Grady Hendrix book I’ve read, and one of those previous was a non-fiction book, but he’s quickly become one of my favorites and someone I actively watch for.
Looking for a good book? The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix is absolutely top-notch horror fiction.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
author: Grady Hendrix
publisher: Quirk Books
hardcover, 404 pages