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  • Mandy McHugh

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: Read This Now

Let me start by saying: this book exceeded every expectation I had. After seeing some of my favorite horror reviewers talk it up on Twitter, I knew I needed to get my hands on it, too, and let me tell you: it is worth every page.

Patty is perfectly content in her 90s suburban Southern life. She has a a wonderful husband, two kids, a beautiful home, and a book club. What starts as a stuffy meeting discussing social issues quickly turns into an exploration into murder and true crime. This is enough for Patty, until she is attacked by a neighbor one night in a horrible, bloody altercation that I refuse to ruin because it's one of my favorite moments in the book. From there, Patty's life becomes a multitude of mysteries as she suspects there's more to the new man in town--the nephew of the woman who attacked him--than meets the eye. Surely, she's mistaken. Vampires are mythical creatures. They aren't real. But Patty can't shake the feeling that something is off, and the next few years are bound to get messy as she pursues, retracts, and demolishes her suspicions in a crazy vampire cat-and-mouse game that was level-ten tense until the very last page. Grady Hendrix completely captures the essence of the time. From bright patterns to phone cords to "does he have a car phone" moments, I was immersed in the memories of the 90s in the best possible way. I'm not typically a fan of vampire fiction, but by the end of the book, I had already cast the entire book club line-up in my head (Grace is definitely Helen from Ozark, by the way, and you can't convince me otherwise). On top of that, I don't think I've ever read a book that has made me physically cringe more than this one--and I've read *A LOT* of creepers. Hendrix doesn't shy away from body horror. You think he won't go there, you tell yourself it's not possible because who would do such a thing, and then bam, before you know it, you're in a room full of rats being asked to inhale the scent of rat piss and fear. I almost threw my phone across the room. BUT I AM HERE FOR THIS HORROR. Give me all the horrible smells and visceral gore without apology. The friendship dynamics were excellent. At no time did the characters feel overlapped or too similar, each with their own characteristics but simultaneously united by their joint appreciation of true crime and horror reads. What's more, this book felt literary, like I wasn't just reading for enjoyment (although wow, did I enjoy the shit out of this one) but also taking something important away about the cultural and financial imbalances in the south. This aspect reminded me so much of the second season of Mindhunter, the Atlanta child murders, that it hurt my heart. Where Patty cares about every child, this is in no way a savior story, and the conclusion was so satisfying because Hendrix never shied away from feelings or truths. You want to read this book. Immediately, and multiple times. 11/10. Cannot wait to read more of his works.


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