Anita Blake is the most popular girl in St. Louis — and everyone wants a piece of her, both figuratively and literally. As the resident federal marshal/vampire executioner, the enforcer for the local werewolf pack, queen of her own band of wereleopards and likely the most powerful animator (someone who raises the dead) in the country, Anita walks a very fine line between the supernatural and human worlds.
Some say she is a living vampire. Others say she’s a murderer witch. And more say she’s slut for having so many men in her life at the same time. In reality, she’s a woman caught up in so many metaphysical ties and is trying to figure out how to deal with the not-so-human creature she’s become and still stick to her ethics.
Throughout the 18-book (so far) series, Laurell K. Hamilton has brought readers through Anita’s long and complex journey from fighting the monsters, to dating the monsters, to becoming one of the monsters. Every once in a while, though, Hamilton takes a break from the overarching story to explore a specific character or storyline. Flirt is one such break, giving more of a character portrait of where Anita is in her personal space and introducing yet another man into her harem of necessary lovers.
The book reads like any other Hamilton novel, beginning with a client looking for Anita’s help. Tony Bennington wants her to resurrect his wife so that she will be wholly alive and able to resume their life together. When Anita tells him that that’s not going to happen because it’s neither practical nor ethical, Bennington finally takes “no” for an answer -– but with ominous foreshadowing that the story isn’t over for him.
Anita and three of her boyfriends (Micah, Nathaniel, and Jason) head out to lunch and learn a thing or two about the power of flirting, something she has always been bad at. This public display of affection among her and her lovers serves as a means for a supernatural bad guy to make his move.
Enter Jacob, a werelion Rex who snatches Anita and lets her know that her three lovers are under the careful eye of a sniper and if she wants them to live, she’ll cooperate. This ends up being a big mistake, since Anita is one of a handful of people in the world who carries multiple strains of lycanthropy in her blood. While all of her other animals (wolf, tiger, and leopard) have found metaphysical mates, her inner lioness has not and is very interested in Jacob and his cohort, Nick.
From there, various nefarious plots enfold complete with moderate doses of sex, violence and death. If it sounds like a simple story, well, it is. The book weighs in at fewer than 200 pages and is more of a novella than a full-fledged novel.
The story is of the same caliber as Hamilton’s recent additions to her Anita Blake mythology — meaning it’s okay but by no means great. As someone who has read all of the books thus far in the series, I have been continually disappointed with all of the books that have come out since The Harlequin. Hamilton seems to have strayed into muddy waters in terms on continuity of story and is having trouble keeping herself afloat.
And though Flirt is only a side step in the overarching tale Hamilton has been telling throughout the series, I’m still left wondering (for the last three books to be exact) where is she going with this story. It’s been many books since there has been significant interaction with the characters who made the series compelling in the first place (read Jean-Claude, St. Louis’ Master of the City; and Richard, the wolf pack’s king), and I’m sure I’m not the only reader who is looking for a return to basics at this point.
Book 19, Bullet, is due to hit shelves in June. Though I’m keeping an optimistic open mind for this one, which is a full-length Anita Blake story, I don’t know how enthusiastic I will be about the series if it, too, disappoints. I’ve always been a supporter of Hamilton’s controversial approach to her heroine, and will continue to do so. I just hope she adds some focus to her gutsy girl in the next installment.