Laurel K. Hamilton
“I’ve survived a lot – from jealous vampires to killer zombies – but this love thing may kill me yet,”
Anita Blake, The Lunatic Café by Laurel K. Hamilton
I finally picked up the fourth book in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series. It has taken me a while, partly because the book has been on loan and partly because I wasn’t that eager to pick up the next book. I felt that the third book in the series, Circus of the Damned, fell a little flat and the book wasn’t left on a cliff-hanger despite the twist at the end of the book. Everything felt resolved. That being said, I wanted to see how the twist at the end of the book played out. As a result, there will be spoilers for Circus of the Damned in this book review, so if you haven’t read book three in the series, don’t read this review.
The Lunatic Café picks up a little while after the ending of Circus of the Damned. Anita is asked by Marcus, the leader of the lycanthropes in St. Louis, to find out what has happened to 7 missing lycanthropes. Anita is reluctant to help because she isn’t a detective, but as they won’t go to the police and Marcus won’t take no for an answer, Anita does what she can. Amidst trying to solve the missing persons’ case, Anita is called in to consult on two crime scenes: one where a human has been mauled by what the local police think is a bear, but Anita thinks otherwise, and one where someone has been skinned. As Anita investigates, she begins to realize that the two cases might be connected, but how?
Anita is still dating Richard despite learning that he is a werewolf. This is because Richard can hide his paranormal side very well, which allows Anita to deny it, and Anita has strong feelings for Richard. Things aren’t so sunny for Richard and Anita in The Lunatic Café, however. Anita catches a glimpse of Richard’s power and it terrifies her. She has said throughout the series that she would not date a monster and Anita is coming to realize that Richard is the lycanthrope equivalent of Jean-Claude in terms of power. Anita also has to try to deal with Jean Claude, who still wants her for himself. After Anita loses the marks Jean Claude placed on her in the Circus of the Damned, Jean Claude is determined not to lose Anita. Will Anita be able to survive the tug of war between Richard and Jean Claude?
After reading the last book in the series, Circus of the Damned, I was getting bored of all the Master Vampires attacking Anita. I wanted some more variety and in The Lunatic Café, I got it. The Lycanthrope’s have a central role in this book. I found it really interesting to read about how and when they change, and the different types of Lycanthropes. It is pretty clear that the leader of the Lycanthrope is as bad as a Master Vampire and once again Anita survives by the skin of her teeth. While these scenes are similar to the showdowns with the Master Vampires in the previous books, they are different because the Lycanthrope’s are more of a threat because when they change, there is no reasoning with them. Plus, as soon as they change they need to kill and Anita just happens to be the only human around!
The main plot in The Lunatic Café is the love triangle between Anita, Jean-Claude and Richard. Richard and Anita’s relationship is moving fast, too fast for Anita, especially when she feels his power for the first time and realizes that he is as powerful and as inhuman as Jean-Claude. Anita has a personal crisis over what to do because she has always claimed that she wouldn’t date a monster, and her relationship with Richard hangs in the balance. I didn’t find Anita and Richard’s relationship interesting in this book. It was so consumed by this road block in their relationship that it ended up with Richard throwing miserable looks at Anita, and Anita feeling bad and wanting to accept him but not doing it. It was all so over-the-top and I rolled my eyes a lot, something I haven’t done in any of the previous Anita Blake books. Plus, Anita becomes so focused on the relationship that everything else takes a back seat. This just seems so out of character because she was a character who wouldn’t let a relationship affect her work.
Jean-Claude is all too happy to take advantage of the Anita’s realization that Richard is as inhuman as he is. He makes a plan to win Anita for himself. I won’t say what the plan is because I don’t want to spoil it, but I am surprised by Anita’s reaction to the plan. It seems so out of character. She really doesn’t like it when she has no choice in something and her usual answer is to shoot the person, but she just kind of accepts it.
Due to the focus on the love triangle, the mystery and detective work in The Lunatic Café takes a back seat. It’s an interesting mystery though so I wish more time had been spent on this. Everything seems to happen in drips and drabs throughout the book and then the focus shifts to the mystery at the end of the book. Everything is crammed in and it feels rushed. Some of the characters had so much potential to really come alive and have some kind of show-down with Anita, but there just wasn’t room in the book. I hope that in the next book, there will be a little lot less love triangle and more focus on the mystery.
I have always found the banter between Anita and the police comedic. It brought a lighter element to the descriptive murder scenes that might have been a tad too dark otherwise. In The Lunatic Café there was way too much of this between Anita and the local police. I found the banter to be infuriating because it constantly broke up the flow of the investigation and it wasn’t comedic. Rather than Anita and the preternatural police team teasing each other, Anita and the local police just take jabs at each other constantly. I get that the local police were complete idiots and they were really prejudiced, but less would have been more.
Final Verdict: If you like love triangles and romance, this will be the best in the series for you. If, like me, you like the butt kicking, zombie raiser and vampire executioner side of Anita Blake, this book will most likely fall flat for you.