I’m not sure what’s scarier in Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. On the one hand, the creature who terrorizes Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, is legitimately terrifying. On the other, the fact that no one listens to protagonist Patricia might be even more frightening. Vampires aren’t real, but disbelieving someone and gaslighting them absolutely exist. The ladies of the titular book club essentially have two evils to battle.
After a disastrous attempt to join a more rigorous book club that requires readers to do research on top of reading the book, Patricia joins a splinter book club that reads pretty much nothing but true crime in the early 1990s. The group become the first girl friends Patricia has had. Sadly, the group gets started near the same time that James Harris arrives in Mt. Pleasant. While the ladies read classic true crime, children start to go missing in the African American neighborhood of the town and Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor. I was not expecting the little old lady to bite Patricia’s earlobe clean off. This act of violence is just a warm-up for the terror that follows.
Patricia, possibly under the influence of all that true crime, starts to draw conclusions from some disturbing deaths, disappearances of children, and her mother-in-law’s insistence that James is the man that swindled her father back in the 1930s. It’s incredible. Worse, it’s unbelievable to everyone Patricia tries to tell about what she thinks. The husbands of the club members do their best to shut down everything Patricia says. It seems that James has become the men’s best friend and business partner.
After a three year jump in time, Patricia seems to have been tamed by Prozac and social pressure. I felt so much for her. Patricia only wants to do the right thing, but no one will listen to her. The tension starts to ratchet up as James becomes bolder in his acts of violence. I raced through the last third of the book because I just hand to know if Patricia would be able to save her children, if she would be able to get someone on her side, and if she would be able to face her fears to commit her own act of righteous violence.
The title and my experience with books featuring vampires and southern women had me expecting something lighter and fluffier. Instead, I got an electrically terrifying novel that was brilliantly written. The pacing is absolutely perfect and Hendrix’s characterization of women trapped by social conventions had me squirming. I am definitely going to recommend this book to my friends who like scary books.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.