Skin Trade Paperback – Nov 26 2009
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About the Author
Laurell K. Hamilton is a full-time writer and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series and the Merry Gentry series. She lives in a suburb of St. Louis with her family. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In Skin Trade Anita teams up with Edward, Olaf and Bernado; her fellow executioners to investigate a series of murders that are similar to ones that happened previously in St-Louis. They go into the investigation already pretty confident on who the villain is. Anita is forced to go to the master of the city and his wife, queen of the L.A. tigers for leads and that's when things get weird as is typical of these books.
I really like Edward (a.k.a Ted) as a character in this series and I especially enjoy the camaraderie between him and Anita. They compliment each other very well as partners and nothing surprises them about each other. These two executioners have each others backs no matter what. The interaction between them is always fun. Anita can't really joke about her line of work with anyone else because well... it's just morbid. Their friendly competition on who's the better vampire hunter makes light of an otherwise rather dark career.
The thing that caught me a little off guard in this novel was the lack of sex. Normally that's one of the main parts of the later books in this series. There's still plenty of sexual tension and dirty jokes but Anita doesn't actually get it on with anyone until the last 150 pages. However, once the ball starts rolling she definitely makes up for lost time! Jean-Claude's presence was minimal in this book and was comprised of a few phone calls between him and Anita. I found that to be a little disappointing as he's one of my favorite characters not to mention hot! (see my meme list of my top 10 fictional crushes).
In conclusion, Skin Trade is a great book that aligns perfectly with the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series. If you're more of a fan of Hamilton's earlier books stay away as she hasn't reverted back. Kinda hard to do that now what with how the story has progressed! But if you've enjoyed her later books, you know what to expect and this one is more of the same. It's not a page turner from beginning to end but it's a solid book packed full of paranormal greatness. I don't gobble these books up like candy but I do keep coming back for more and have yet to read a really bad one. There's a reason why Hamilton is a role model for many authors in this genre: she knows her stuff!
Guess what Laurell K. Hamilton does: sex, angst and endless bickering. The seventeenth Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novel "Skin Trade" starts with promise and has moments of potential brilliance, including a menacing new villain. But between those points, she packs it with icky sex, endless whining and bickering, rancid misogyny, and constant reminders that her Mary Sue is the most awesome person ever.
Anita receives the aforementioned head in the mail, and learns that it's from Vittorio, a vampire she allowed to get away because she was too busy having sex. He's killed a bunch of cops, and he wants her to come to Vegas for a showdown.
So Anita heads to Vegas with her arsenal of phallic weapons, the assassins Bernardo and Edward, and psychopath Olaf. Of course, the local cops and SWAT team are unimpressed by her and her reputation as a lover of all things furry/undead, but naturally Anita silences all critics with her manly demeanor and snarky remarks. And when she investigates the bodies (with Olaf's revved-up help), she senses the presence of tiger in the wounds.
It's a pretty touchy situation, since the tiger queen of Vegas wants Anita to have sex with some new tigers -- and Anita's rainbow of internal tigers is selecting hotties left and right to feed the ardeur. Unfortunately the MOAD is also on Anita's doorstep, intent on getting a new body since her old one is broken -- and it turns out that Anita has underestimated Vittorio's true power, and his ancient nature. Cue sex.
"Skin Trade" is one of those books that sounds awesome in theory, but the actual plot (what little there is) is tissue-paper thin. While Hamilton sprinkles in some metaphysical disasters and supernatural threats to keep things interesting, most of the book is long chapters full of bickering, whining, and Anita proving that she is the Biggest Toughest Strongest Butchest Macho Man ever to squirt testosterone out her ears.
And halfway through, the plot dies. Instead we get a steady stream of sexual negotiations, icky sex scenes with a half dozen new boytoys, and Anita's endless whining about her internal zoo (very Freudian!). The chapters leading up to the climax actually introduce a genuinely spooky new villain, and a potent thread to Marmee Noir... but apparently Hamilton gets sick of actually having a villain, so she flushes a promising storyline right down the tubes.
And her writing has gotten no better -- the weretigers' powers are described as having "crunchy goodness" like a Snickers bar, and her dialogue ranges from pompous ("The grenades aren't what make me scary, Shaw." "What does?" "That I'm willing to use them") to hilariously horrible ("My Queen, if by my flesh or my seed I can feed you, then feed" -- like a pornographic version of "Lord of the Rings").
And Hamilton dials the rancid misogyny up to eleven: all women are evil and/or nasty, lines like "Stop being a girl!" are casually tossed off, and the one strong woman we see is degraded and tortured. But the most disgusting event in this book is a weretiger orgy where Anita has sex with a sixteen-year-old... which, Hamilton claims, is okay because he's "legal."
As always, Anita has all the charm of a power sander (but fewer brains), countless convenient magic powers, seething hatred of both men and women, and a tendency to snarl accusations of sexism if someone even looks at her wrong. Hamilton tries to give her some fears and vulnerabilities, but these are forgotten almost instantly -- she's clearly more interested in letting us know that her Mary Sue is the rarest kind of tiger there is, AND the potential queen of them all.
None of the other characters really seem like more than cardboard standouts, especially since none of Hamilton's regular characters makes more than a cameo appearance at best. As for the vampire brothers Wicked and Truth, they seem to be there to fuel Hamilton's fantasies of a threesome with Legolas and Aragorn.
"Skin Trade" has a few moments of potential brilliance, but their presence only makes this sad drippy swamp all the more desolate. Disgusting, boring and frequently laughable.
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