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.
Hi and welcome to my review of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires!
What drew me in when I first spotted this novel on social media was the title (book club!), and then the cover. Juicy peaches with fat drops of blood, I was sure I would be in for a tongue in cheek kind of horror story, and that just goes to show that sometimes you absolutely can and should judge a book by its cover.
First let me assure you if you’re not that into vampire novels: this is no ordinary vampire story. Forget Bram Stoker and Anne Rice, forget Sookie Stackhouse and the Salvatore brothers, and let’s not even talk about Twilight. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is the ultimate vampire novel for people who don’t even like vampire novels. For the larger part, there really isn’t that much vampire stuff, there’s hardly any blood (bar one particularly bloody part) and the story’s heroine is a mother / housewife who sometimes wonders what the point is, and whether there shouldn’t be more to life than going through the same motions day after day. She is utterly believable, she’s clever, she’s flawed, she’s a fierce momma bear, I adored her.
So this was the first novel I read for the 20 books of summer challenge and boy did I hit the jackpot! I had so much fun with The Southern Book Club’s Guide! I read it out in the sun, thanks to its setting in South Carolina it’s the perfect summer’s read, and thanks to its setting in the 80s and 90s, it has this kind of nostalgic feel to it that I very much enjoyed. I love the simplicity of those decades, the problems they throw at the characters. You’re in dire straits and you need help? Tough luck, you’ll have to save yourself, no way to call or text for help. And you saw evidence of wrongdoing, did ya? Well how are you supposed to prove it when you don’t have a smartphone with built-in camera glued to your fingers?!
A sort of broodingly menacing atmosphere permeates The Southern Book Club’s Guide and I just couldn’t stop reading. And whenever I had to, my mind kept flashing back to it. Instead of the typical vampire story elements, we get a mother’s worst nightmare (willful teenagers who put themselves in harm’s way) and things like a rat invasion and a scene with way too many creepy crawlies in a dusty attic. There I was, breathing in clean air out in the garden with zero roaches in sight, yet I could smell the dust, taste the mothballs in the back of my throat, feel something wriggling in my ear. Sometimes vivid imagery is not all it’s cracked up to be 😳
There was one part of the book that royally pissed me off, made me feel a bit murderous even, and I might have looked quite calm, sitting there reading on my sun lounger, but on the inside I was raging and would have happily stuffed my e-reader down a certain condescending, patronising twat’s throat. This blood pressure inducing episode was followed by a slight confusion, for a minute there I thought I’d stepped into the Stepford Wives…
This was my first Grady Hendrix novel, and I’ve promptly added his entire backlist to my wishlist. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a brilliant book, vivid, unique, fun, and if you’re looking for a novel to spice up your reading, this is guaranteed to do just that. Highly recommended!