Enter the Executioner. Anita Blake, vampire slayer and animator (we're talking zombies, not cartoons) has been hired by the master vampires of the city to find out who, or what, is killing vampires and tearing out their hearts. The trail leads from a hen night that goes horribly wrong, via a suburban freak party (rather like an orgy, but with vampires), to the Church of Eternal Life - the only religion to practise what it preaches, though you have to be over 18 to be converted. Anita, a cynical, Dr. Seuss-quoting Episcopalian, isn't seduced by the promise of immortality, and has the scars to prove it. With her friend Edward - "if I was the Executioner, he was Death" - she is drawn towards a very real, and terrifying, heart of darkness.
Like all the best speculative fiction, Guilty Pleasures doesn't labour its point. First and foremost it's a crime novel with a startling denouement. Beneath the fast pacing and exotica, however, there's a complex society in which the supernatural is something to be confronted in everyday life, something that won't crawl back under the bed when the lights go on. Someone's who's scared of being bitten by a werewolf, for instance, can be inoculated against lycanthropy; or a man who wants to apologise to his dead daughter can have her raised as a zombie. Life's never that simple, though; the supernatural merely presents a new set of problems.
Hamilton isn't offering us a trite, good-versus-bad whodunnit. The outstanding characteristic of the book is the variety of evil which it describes; it's refreshing, post-Anne Rice, to find vampires who, despite their supernatural glamour, aren't the much-maligned good guys, but are genuinely and inhumanly evil. Neither are they the nastiest characters in the book; there's very little type-casting here. Guilty Pleasures invites us to look beneath the surface - in more ways than one, since the cover artwork might lead one to assume that this is nothing more scary than bad porn.