Dead Ice, by Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton has a gift. You wouldn't think a novel featuring vampires, werewolves, necromancers, polyamory, and (no joke) zombie porn could be dead boring, but somehow, inexplicably, Ms. Hamilton is capable of proving you wrong.

Dead Ice, the 23rd installment in Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, is nominally about necromancer/vampire hunter/U.S. Marshal Anita Blake's investigation into a series of illegal porn films featuring unnervingly lifelike zombies. In reality, only about a hundred pages of this nearly six-hundred-page-long tome deal with the zombie plot; the rest focuses on the personal and political logistics of Anita's sex life, which Hamilton describes in exhaustive, tedious detail and with an artsy teenager's aren't-I-naughty! preoccupation with kink.

Back when I still bothered to defend Ms. Hamilton's writing, I would point out that she used to be really good at coming up with interesting details about the paranormal world that she had created—insurance quirks, legal loopholes, shifting social attitudes. Those details are now few and far between, and even the central mystery in Dead Ice is given short shrift. (The suspect is mentioned by name about halfway through the novel as having a close link to a previous killer with an identical M.O., but nobody bothers to follow through on the connection.) Instead, the vast majority of this novel focuses the banal details of managing a coterie of lovers, most of whom have superpowers and all of whom are inexplicably devoted to Anita, despite her utter lack of warmth, charm, or visible personality.

As I slogged through Dead Ice, I kept comparing it with Nora Roberts-as-J. D. Robb's Eve Dallas novels, another long-running romantic suspense/mystery series. I've complained plenty about Roberts, but Hamilton makes her look like Mary Stewart. Roberts has created a world full of fully-developed characters, and she offsets the declining drama of their stable romantic lives by writing genuinely engaging mysteries. Hamilton's mysteries, in contrast, are as flimsy as her self-involved, sex-obsessed characters, and both get dumber with every book.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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