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Series: Anita Blake Vampire Hunter #4
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Hit List, Bloody Bones, Killing Dance, Burnt Offerings, Narcissus in Chains, Obsidian Butterfly, Bite, Incubus Dreams, Micah, Danse Macabre, The Harlequin, Blood Noir, Skin Trade, Flirt, Bullet, Never After, Kiss the Dead, The First Death, Affliction, Guilty Pleasures, The Laughing Corpse, Circus of the Damned, "Shutdown", A Kiss of Shadows, A Caress of Twilight, Seduced by Moonlight, A Stroke of Midnight, Mistral’s Kiss, A Lick of Frost, Blue Moon, Dead Ice, Jason, Crimson Death.
Fourth in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter urban fantasy series set in a contemporary St. Louis, Missouri. Vampires and shifters have come out to society, and humans are still trying to figure out how to slot them in.
It’s a story of love gone awry in a very wary way. I started re-reading this series, wanting to know where the milestones were. Where Anita changed. Where Jean-Claude and Richard changed. And this installment, Lunatic Café is pivotal at so many levels.
A woman of strong convictions, Anita is in love. Unwillingly. She wants to love Richard but is terrified of it not lasting forever. She doesn’t want to love Jean-Claude as he is too much the monster. She doesn’t want to have sex before marriage. Oh, she’s tempted, but the hurts she’s suffered prevent her taking that final step. If she were a real person, I’d wonder how she could be so casual, so comfortable with taking these lives, but is so uncomfortable with her own emotions. I do love that Anita has such strength of mind, that she sees through the posing, and holds to her faith, her beliefs. And yet that she is so flawed in herself. Her teeny, tiny, so petite self that goes up against the bigger, badder guys. The one that crumples and hides behind anger. I sure don’t understand how she can turn down that dinner that Richard cooks! Talk about unrational fear! But then the fears that others have are always easy to dismiss, especially when our own are so much more important!
Richard is such a sweet man, naive, and an Episcopalian werewolf with a strong desire to protect. Such a contrast in his height, weight, and strength when set against Anita and her strength of mind. It’s in this story that we begin to see Richard’s flaws and his hurts, but with that scene in the hotel room with Edward, we also begin to see the wolf’s desires inside the white knight whose efforts are continually rejected
Jean-Claude is interesting in this. I still don’t understand what he finds so fascinating about Anita. Although that scene toward the end when the three of them are in her apartment…whoa…it could be the start of the triumvirate. He’s certainly facile with his wits and tongue as he traps Anita and Richard with his bargain.
It’s coming up on the Christmas holidays and shifters are going missing. Bert is taking on anyone who will fork over money. Gretchen thinks she needs to remove Anita from the line-up of lovers. She loves Jean-Claude and she wants Anita gone. Out. Not on the menu. And Richard has been keeping secrets. It’s guaranteed to get Anita’s pissy side coming out. Especially when Richard has the nerve to make dinner for her one night when he’s waiting for her to come back to her apartment after fulfilling the promise she made to Jean-Claude.
Then very late one night, Anita gets an invite to the Lunatic Café from Marcus, the Pack Leader. An invite she can’t turn down with the result that her status amongst all weres changes. The night she meets Raina and Gabriel. Jason.
The story in which Richard and Anita find things out about the other that gives them pause. In which Jean-Claude forces his little bargain in return for letting Richard live.
Anita Blake raises the dead for a living and is also the state’s official vampire executioner. It’s her knowledge of the supernatural world that finds her consulting for and with the police much too often for her taste. Bert Vaughan is her boss, in name only. Mary is the daytime secretary; Craig works nights. Ronnie is a private detective and Anita’s best friend. Judith is her unloved stepmother while Andria is the perfect stepsister, and Anita loves her stepbrother Josh.
Richard Zeeman is a junior high science teacher who loves walking in the woods, birdwatching, Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, and Anita. He also turns furry once a month due to a bad batch of vaccine. He’s now second in the pack. Dr. Louis Fane is a wererat (second to Rafael) who teaches biology at Washington University and Richard’s best friend. Samuel Williams, a friend of Richard’s, is a naturalist at the Audubon Center, and he’s pursuing a doctorate in ornithology.
Jean-Claude is the Master of St. Louis, a vampire who greatly desires Anita, and will pull any trick to break off Anita and Richard’s relationship. Gretchen, a.k.a., Gretel, is one of Jean-Claude’s, and she’s madly, passionately in love with him. She will do anything to prevent Anita and Jean-Claude from being together. Guilty Pleasures is both the first book in the series and the strip club that Jean-Claude owns. Buzz the vampire is a bouncer; Robert is now managing the club.
Sergeant Dolph Storr is the head of the Regional Preternatural Investigation Team (RPIT) task force for the St. Louis PD. He’s learning to call Anita in as soon as trouble starts. He’s also learned enough from her that the FBI has him lecturing at Quantico. Sergeant Zerbrowski is the tease on the task force. The one with the rolling hazard site. Katie is his beautiful, understanding wife. Detective Clive Perry is the polite one. The one one you can’t figure out how he could have screwed up bad enough to be shunted to RPIT. MacAdam is one of the divers.
Edward Forrester is his alter ego. Your friendly neighborhood bounty hunter. In truth, he’s an assassin with a preference for supernaturals. They’re more of a challenge.
Marcus is a surgeon and the alpha for the wolves with a strong desire for Anita’s help. Only he goes about it in all the wrong ways. Raina Wallis is his vicious second and runs the Lunatic Café, while Gabriel is a cat shifter. We meet Jason, a werewolf, for the first time at the Lunatic Café and again halfway up a mountain. Stephen is a werewolf stripper who helps Richard and Anita with Louis. Irving Griswold is a werewolf as well as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Alfred functions as a non-thinking bodyguard for Marcus.
Kaspar Gunderson is a swan shapeshifter who’s been cursed and is not a were. We don’t find out what Christine is. Rafael is the Rat King. George Smitz is human with a missing wife, Peggy, a werewolf butcher. Elvira Drew is writing a book on weres.
Sheriff Titus is part of the county law enforcement; the trigger-happy Deputy Aikensen is an idiot who shouldn’t be allowed out with a water pistol. Police Chief Garroway is a nice guy, city; Holmes and Lind are his deputies. Carmichael is one of the hunters.
Lycanthropes catch the disease; shapeshifters are born with it. Mrs. Pringle is Anita’s retired neighbor. Custard is her Pomeranian dog. Javad is the naga, an immortal snake shifter out of Hindu legend.
The Cover and Title
The cover is soft peaches scratching diagonally in the foreground while the background is a peachy collage of stormclouds and a wolf’s head. Between the two, and larger than life, is a nude Anita, her arms bent and her long fingers caressing her neck.
The title is both where the questions start and the ménage in which Anita finds herself: the Lunatic Café.