The Lunatic Cafe
Reviewed: November 19, 2004
By: Laurell K. Hamilton
Publisher: Jove Books
384 pages, $10.99
In another alternate world Anita Blake raises zombies for a living, kills rogue vampires, consults with the police on supernatural cases, and tries to sort out the confusion of her personal life. Her adventures are narrated in a hard boiled first person PI style, even though she's not exactly that, kind of like Kinsey Millhone with attitude.
In the fourth novel in this series Anita is still refusing the advances of the Master of the City, a charming vampire named Jean-Claude, while dating Richard, a high school teacher who just happens to be an alpha werewolf once a month. That's creating an interesting and heavily charged relationship triangle.
Meantime, St. Louis and the surrounding countryside seems to be experiencing an epidemic of werewolf disappearances, and Marcus, the leader of the pack, wants to hire Anita to find out why. One of the disappearances is a case which has already wandered in the front door of Animators Inc., where Anita's boss, Bert, is trying to fill up the slack pre-Christmas season by taking on cases that really have nothing to do with checking the deceased intentions for her or her will, or asking the corpse to describe who killed it, which is most of what zombie raising is about.
As usual, Anita hits the ground running, and barely gets any sleep until these seemingly unrelated cases are laid to rest. Events pile up thick and fast as Anita has her obligatory confrontation with Jean-Claude, and spends an evening at the cafe of the title, the local place where the pack gathers to conduct business and deal with dominance issues.
Oh, she also agrees to marry Richard, but that's before she really ever sees him in all his furry glory, and she spends much of the novel suffering from second thoughts.
Hamilton keeps us turning pages by alternating between scenes of violence and scenes of emotional and sexual tension. The latter can get stressful, even if Anita is a good Episcopalian girl who won't go all the way out of wedlock.
Finally, there is a continuing plot thread which suggests that Anita's own supernatural abilities run to much more than just animating corpses. We saw definite signs of this in the last book, Circus of the Damned, and the curtain is raised just a little more in this one.