As Laurel K. Hamilton always does with her novels, The Harlequin is an astounding job of creating a world filled with shapeshifters, vampires and various other furries that coexist - albeit not peacefully - with humans and the inimitable Anita Blake. This time around, Anita and her harem (sounds good, doesn’t it ladies?) tackle vampire hunters so spooky that the vamps themselves do not utter their name. These ghoulies are supposed to abide by strict rules for contacting intended victims. They start out with the appropriate signal for discussion, a white mask, but it quickly goes downhill from there and includes a twist at the end of the final confrontation that explains the hopscotch over The Harlequin’s rigid rules of conduct.
The fighting sequences are realistic – okay, as realistic as they can be in a work of fantasy fiction. At least the hero actually bears battle scars from the numerous times that she has come close to death, as opposed to many books and/or movies that consider the protagonist invincible. Readers can feel Anita’s physical and emotional pain after she is wounded and a team member dies. We can also feel her disgust and fear elicited by the menacing psychopath who has an unnerving fascination with her. Even such minute details as the change of clothes brought to her at the hospital are so vividly described that we can see her (cleavage and all) in our mind’s eye. Hamilton’s ability to make characters like Richard, Anita’s first and most possessive boyfriend, believable as the perfect example of masculine outrage over his proprietary jealousy of Anita and her other lovers, all the while maintaining his own side dalliances, is so true to life that it hurts to read about it.
Not since Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” has there been such a dominating force in sexually titillating supernatural fiction. Despite this being the fifteenth offering in the “Anita Blake” series, Hamilton shows no signs of losing steam. Reading The Harlequin can only leave fans waiting with bated ( and baited by garlic, of course - I know, I know, but I just could not resist) breath for the next installment. No one writes the sexy supernatural better than Laurel K. Hamilton.