In ‘Kiss The Dead’, Laurell K. Hamilton returns with another addition to the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Novel series. This time, Anita is back in St. Louis and is up against a rouge group of vampires. In the course of tracking a fifteen year old human girl kidnapped by vampires, Anita finds those vampires belong to a group who desire independence and is willing to do whatever it takes to maintain it.

Apart from the action of the hunt for the rouge vampire group, ‘Kiss The Dead’ explores the day-to-day details of Anita’s job, how she uses her powers to be most effective in that job, her motivations and her working relationship with her fellow vampire executioners/Federal Marshals and police officers. There’s also a new development in Anita’s power and the way in which it works. Additionally, the novel delves deeper into the personalities of Cynric (or “Sin” as he insists on being called, much to Anita’s chagrin), Anita’s young blue tiger to call and accidental lover, and Nicky, the sociopathic were-lion who became Anita’s “Bride of Dracula.” We also get a closer look at Asher, Jean-Claude’s second in command, and see a new direction in his storyline.

Fans of Jean-Claude and Richard may be disappointed as Jean-Claude appears only infrequently in ‘Kiss The Dead’ and Richard not at all. Edward, the vampire executioner known as Death, is also absent from this novel. Fans of Micah and Nathaniel, however, will be more satisfied as both of these characters have prominent roles.

I enjoyed this novel far more than I have the past several Anita Blake novels. I felt Hamilton had gotten into a predictable pattern recently with her books: Anita gets news of a new villain, Anita feeds the ardeur; Anita tracks the villain and skips dinner and is forced to feed the ardeur in an emergency way with someone unexpected; Anita has a run-in with a faction from the villain’s group and has sex with one of her partners because it was a close call and also to feed the ardeur, etc., etc., etc. It’s not that I object to Anita’s chosen lifestyle, it’s that I feel Hamilton became lazy with her writing and used the very frequent sex scenes as filler. The previous few novels didn’t have much in the way of plot and just seemed to lack depth. ‘Kiss The Dead’, I am happy to say, has more to offer.

There were a few things I felt could have been better in this novel. Hamilton repeats phrases often and to no positive effect. For example, how many times does Anita have to describe a good looking man as “yummy”? Also, descriptions of the attributes of the various supernaturals are repeated almost word-for-word in several places in the book. I would think a good editor would catch these things and suggest alternatives.

Overall, ‘Kiss The Dead’ is the best offering in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series I’ve seen in a while. My rating system tends to be: Buy It, Get It From The Library and Forget It. For this novel my recommendation is, if you’re a fan of the series, Buy It. If you’re new to series, don’t start here or you’ll be confused by a lot of the references made but not explained. Go back to the beginning and see if you like what you read first!