The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Quirk Books (April 7, 2020)
408 pages; $15.29 paperback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann
You might be a horror book consumer like me and have already bought into the Grady Hendrix brand. You come for the unique titles and clever packaging (My Best Friend’s Exorcism) but you stay for the alluring storytelling, memorable characters, and iconic cultural references.
Hendrix fans, this might be your new favorite. Within the first few chapters, I got a real sense of the author setting the pace. If you’re one of those book-bingers who jump in with both feet and start tearing through the story, let me caution you to slow down with this one and really savor the moments. There’s some masterful set-up going on in this book; some juicy nuances.
Patricia shows up to her Book Club and she’s supposed to lead the discussion, but motherhood and “life obstacles” have prevented any kind of self-care, let alone time to read a whole book (and a boring book at that). Instead of just coming clean, she decides to wing it and fake her understanding of the story hoping that by asking enough vague questions, the discussion will naturally give her enough clues to sound knowledgeable.
This scene is hysterical. The dialog, the characters, all the awkwardness of the moment—it’s almost like Grady Hendrix spent actual years in a woman’s book club. His focus on Patricia and her friends—their struggles with motherhood and married life—is why this book is so successful.
This is a vampire horror story, yes, but only as a vehicle to tell Patricia’s story—a woman with a thousand expectations put on her. Raising two kids and looking after an ailing mother-in-law, all while keeping up appearances.
At some point, members of the Book Club go rogue and instead of reading the typical literary go-to books (The Bridges of Madison County), they take a deep dive into the scandals of true crime novels. Around the same time, a strange man, James Harris, moves into the neighborhood under mysterious circumstances and befriends our attention-starved Patricia.
What might be mistaken as telegraphing the whole “vampire thing” is actually Grady Hendrix remixing a tired old trope, so don’t be tempted to exclaim, “I figured it out!” or “I knew this was happening!” You didn’t and you don’t. In the case of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendrix knows exactly what he’s doing. Everything you think you know was hinted at on purpose and everything that blows your mind at the end was Hendrix showing off.
Horror lovers who enjoy era-specific pop cultural references and a smart blend of vivid character-driven horror and humor will be well pleased. It’s everything Hendrix fans have come to expect from his exclusive brand of storytelling: Clever, compelling and plenty of chills. A new favorite!