The Laughing Corpse
Reviewed: August 6, 2004
By: Laurell K. Hamilton
304 pages, $9.99
Anita Blake raises the dead for a living. She lives in a world
which is pretty much like ours, except that magic is an
accepted reality and vampires can't be staked out of hand
unless they've actually been convicted of killing people. It's
an alternate reality, and we don't see a lot of it except for
the parts that are connected with Anita's life in St. Louis.
Blake is an animator, which means that she can raise zombies.
While this may sound like an odd occupation at first gloss,
imagine the advantages of being able to question murder
victims about who killed them, or being able to question the
deceased as to his intentions in a case where there was a
problem with the will. So Anita raises corpses, gets the
answers, and them returns them to the ground.
Sometime in Anita's past, before the courts offered due
process to the undead, she was also a vampire slayer. This
series began several years before Buffy made that concept a
household word, and Blake was so good at it that she became
known in certain circles as The Executioner.
While she now works for a speciality firm, Animators Inc., she
is on retainer to the police to assist them in cases involving
the supernatural. This is the basis on which she ends up
participating in the various murder investigations which make
up one plot thread in these books.
There are other things going on. Blake is favoured by the
vampire Master of the City, one Jean-Claude, who fancies
having her as his “human servant”, a status which would
enhance her physical prowess as well as his mystical
abilities. Blake is physically attracted to the master
vampire, but morally repulsed by all that his race stands for,
so she resists his advances. This provides a constant
undercurrent of tension in the books.
There are things other than vampires and zombies in Blake's
world. There are also ordinary villains who use the
supernatural to get their way. Anita is approached by
multi-millionaire Harold Gaynor to perform a reanimation. This
might be standard fare for her except for one detail: the
longer a person has been dead, the more magical force, as
generated by a blood sacrifice, is needed to bring them back.
Mr. Gaynor's request would actually require a human sacrifice,
and Anita doesn't do murders.
Gaynor spends much of the rest of the book trying to bend her
to do his bidding, with violent results.
What else? Someone has lost control of a particularly nasty
creature of some sort. It is wreaking havoc among nice,
innocent nuclear families in the city, literally shredding the
bodies as it goes. The police need her help in tracking what
seems to amount to a monster serial killer.
These elements drive this story at a breakneck pace towards
solutions that are neither tidy nor entirely satisfactory.
There has been a general reissue of the books in this series
lately. This one appeared first in 1994 and is currently
available in both paperback and e-book formats.