The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Published: April 7, 2020 by Quirk Books
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Synopsis: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.
Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.
But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.
Review: I had fairly high expectations for this book when I got the audiobook. I had heard a lot of great reviews from good friends of mine and it sounded absolutely thrilling and charming. Taking horror back to a time when the Internet was still just dial-up and cellphones weren’t a thing. Center it around a southern ladies’ book club and you have the stage set for a great read. Unfortunately it was just okay.
Patricia started out as a good character but she quickly became boring. Most of her narration is complaining about her boring life as a housewife. She complains about her mother in law, her husband, her children, her book club, her friends, the household chores, the new neighbors, the weather. She just complains a lot. And I was okay with that at first because it seemed like the plot was moving on from it, but then it didn’t and I had to listen to many more hours of Patricia complaining about everything. She’s also a very weak character and I just couldn’t deal with her anymore.
The plot meanders quite a bit too. We meet the suspicious James (I am fairly sure that was his name at least) early on and Patricia grows suspicious of him early on too. But when the women decide that they have to turn over the information they’ve found to the police their collective husbands hold a meeting to tell them how hysterical and ridiculous they are being. The husbands decree they are never to speak of this again. (Sidenote: I really really hated all the husbands in this book, there should have been a massive neighborhood divorce going on.) And so we spend many more hours of book club meetings, dinner parties, and pretending that James is just a perfect new neighbor. In fact no further plot development happens until three years later. And it literally felt like I had been listening for three more years too. It was so utterly boring.
It also isn’t lost on me that the white women in the book club are all perfectly fine with overlooking their suspicions for three years when it’s children from a poor, primarily African American community who are going missing or turning up dead. They only change their minds when it’s their children who are in danger. Then they can’t remain silent any longer.
Now, once Patricia decides to stop cowering behind her husband (remember what I said about her being weak?) and starts bringing the women over to her side I was back on board too. Things were moving and it was interesting and well written. I really loved the back half of the book. It was gritty, dark and at times disgusting. The ending was imaginative and unexpected. If the middle half had been taken out of this book then it would have been an easy five stars from me. But that middle half was some of the boring drivel I’ve ever read.