The second half of "Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures" is where Laurell K. Hamilton stops trying to have the plot make sense.
While there are some interesting revelations, the fragmented story develops holes you could drive a SUV through, on the few occasions when it's not boring us silly with dysfunctional romance and vampire antics. Worst of all, the supposedly tough and knowledgeable Anita Blake becomes denser and more offensively obnoxious as the plot winds on... even to the point of forgetting who the murderer of master vampires is.
Angry with Phillip, Anita stomps out of the house -- and promptly bumps into a gang of Nikolaos' vampires overseeing a zombie-raising. Anita gives her help to the failing animator Zachary -- only to discover who is killing master vampires.
Now forget about that plot development, because Anita does.
In fact, she immediately starts investigating other options, such as the Humans Against Vampires movement. One big option is the Church of the Eternal Life which is run by the"Billy Graham of vampires," a stalwartly calm vampire whom she bombards with false accusations, wildly illogical speculation, and a bit of illegal gun-waving. All of this is based on the tiniest shred of evidence, based on several incorrect assumptions.
But then Nikolaos starts getting impatient, and uses the tortured Phillip to lure Anita to her -- right before making a shocking revelation about what Jean-Claude has done to her. To fight Nikolaos, Anita will team up with the ultimate supernatural assassin and a gang of underground weres. But of course the murderer is still out, about and beheading vampires -- and since Anita clearly isn't bright enough to solve the murders herself, he calls her out...
By this point in the story, it's painfully obvious that Laurell K. Hamilton is treading water, and has no idea how to structure a mystery story. It's hard to take a mystery novel seriously if the hero forgets who the villain is, and can't figure out what's going on unless the Evil Vampire Killer inexplicably unmasks himself. Mystery is not Laurell K. Hamilton's forte -- she apparently has to resort to this absurd twist because otherwise her dense, whiny heroine will never solve anything.
Along the way, Hamilton tries to pad the story by having Anita run around blaming people at random. So she splatters torture, shootouts, some nude showering, tepidly erotic zombie-raising, and a big leather Queen Galaxina dress throughout the story. Unfortunately this doesn't disguise the fact that her plot is just sort of oozing along, with plot developments and fights thrown in at random.
To make matters worse, Hamilton's dialogue has the razor wit of kindergarten trash talk ("Thus he must die." "No!" "Oh, but yes!"). And by the end, the plot has completely unravelled -- the nadir is a truly hysterical conversation about zombie sexual abuse.
But Anita herself is the weakest part of the plot -- abrasive, smug, brittle and rather weak. Hamilton pretty clearly considers her a hardcore tough-grrl, but smirking, cowering and giving in to the bad guys does not make you tough. Even worse, she has the tiny immovable mind of the very stupid and stubborn -- when she decides someone is guilty, they must be guilty.
And Hamilton stretches the story to the breaking point to avoid harming her heroine. The villain do random and inexplicable things -- such as standing still so Anita can stab then with her tiny cheese knife -- so that Anita will always win.
The second half of "Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures" is actually drastically worse than the first -- a meandering plot full of holes, and a heroine so dumb she forgets who the enemy is.