A brief note: I submitted this to Amazon literally at 3:12 AM this morning and it just went through 10 minutes ago- obviously to give all the Verified Purchase reviews exposure first. So, if you're of a mind, I'd appreciate a little voting help to push it up the list. Thanks.
I hadn’t read the last two books… actually I stopped reading the last two books about 20% in because I completely lost interest in them that fast- so when the chance arose at an early copy of this one I figured: what the hell, maybe there’s been some changes and improvement. Maybe there’s been some actual developments, revelations and repercussions from these character choices and events.
Let’s put it this way: No.
Remember all the buildup for the plot of Bullet? That assassins were gunning for Anita and the crew, and even Belle Morte was high-tailing it as fast as she could, only for the book to be about everything else but assassins? How a story featuring cold blooded killers only dedicated about 19 PAGES right smack in the middle to said murderers? How the synopsis ended up getting revised because turns out there were virtually no assassins in the book, and would’ve been false advertising to keep saying it was all about them? Well, if that was your gold standard for storytelling, if that muck thrilled you to the stars and back- boy, has Laurell got a story for you now!
I’ll give her credit; it took some serious gall to write this. She had a lotta nerve pulling this again. In a 500 page book about cursed snake people, they get mentioned in the beginning, referred to in the middle-ish and never brought up again until the finale. Take one guess what’s on the rest of the dead trees sacrificed for this drek. You got it: relationships and all the baggage they come with!
*** Mini-Spoilers Ahead***
There ain’t a K-Drama in the world that can hold a candle to this! It’s everything all the other Anita Blake books have given you the past fifteen years, yet somehow less. The paint by numbers scenes of gratuitous boob/crotch flashing, jellus haterz who deep down want to be just like Anita, hawt zexxy zex with the sweeties, fifty pages to leave town, forty pages to get to the hotel from the airport, recycled & rehashed pissing contests with cops, identifying friends from enemies by their boob size and curves, bad guys who suddenly can’t function without literally giving themselves away, rushed & compressed ending with tons of exposition in order to get back to the real story- troo wuv with the boyz. It’s all there, y’all! Knock yourselves out… or at least get a friend to do it. Not so messy that way.
The one real surprise is the return of a character we hadn’t seen in a while- Olaf. And despite being as boring and repetitive as everyone else, still manages to be creepy and somehow able to sneak a bit into Anita’s good graces. In hindsight, an appearance from him is overdue but under the circumstances you wouldn’t expect him to be there, which makes the reason for his being there utterly contrived. But given the implausibility of everything else, why the heck not? Toss in Bernardo Spotted-Horse and it makes for a reunion of the Four Horsemen, which could’ve been a tour de force, but instead plays like an investigation by Scooby-Doo & the gang. Because, yeah- the baddie would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling U.S. Marshals and their were-buddies.
By the time Hamilton returns to the supposed mystery/curse to solve, you flat out won’t give a flip because it hasn’t mattered in so long you forgot all about it. Far more important are the sudden appearance of Donna’s jellusy about Anita’s special bond with Edward, Donna’s BFF Dixie’s seething jellusy about the wedding, the cadre of bimbos jellus about Anita’s men, Olaf’s jellusy about Anita boitois… you might be sensing a theme here. Jellusy even has a place in the motives of the bad guy- go figure!
Another theme is Hamilton’s ridiculous fixation with superhero metaphors. Man, did she just love comparing Edward/Ted to Batman/Bruce Wayne; even Superman/Clark Kent a few times just to mix things up a bit.
No LKH novel would be complete without the sheer idiocy that’s Anita & Co- in both the classic and contemporary sense of the word. Early on they ask a particular character if they know anything about the snake curse; they deny it, only to discover in the end just how much they did know. Why such pertinent info was withheld is neither explained nor explored- just tossed in to avoid thinking something else up.
In the midst of an investigation into some missing women, Anita & co. come in contact with someone who’s obviously tied to the disappearances, but just plain fail to alert anyone about this in time to prevent other problems. Why? Why ask why.
There’s really not a lot to say about Serpentine-all the endless inanity, vapidity, vulgarity, insanity, mendacity, fragility… It’s just plain bad, lazy, dull, self-indulgent, writing. The usual, but somehow worse.
Sorry for the lack of snark. But I got nothing for this thing.
Capt. Tyburn’s a pretty big guy; big enough to get Anita’s attention… know what I mean? Rankin’s still trying to catch Dalton’s eye but Anita stumbles against him, breaking his concentration.
They run into Olaf in the lobby, and he wrangles himself into tagging along for the meeting. All they needed was Bernardo and it’s the Four Horsemen again!
They go into side room barely big enough for all of them and Tyburn unloads on Rankin, demanding answers. They’re connected to the missing women and Nate’s background makes him a suspect. Good answer; what do you have to say, Blake?
Nate was a victim, not a perp; he was a child and we got him help. Pffft!- of course he’d say that; he bats his pretty little eyes and tells a sob story and you all fall for it. Whoa- did you just slut-shame a child victim of pedophiles just because he was a pretty little boy? Uh-no? Sounds to me like you damn sure did! Tedward asks if Rankin has any connection to Nate. Lots of non-denials before he finally just says no.
Anita remarks it’s pretty bad when a cop slut-shames an adult rape victim, but attacking a child…? WTF? Nice try, Blake; you’re just trying to make trouble for me.
Olaf comments that lots of men say stuff like that would be rapists if they thought they wouldn’t get caught… so I gotta wonder what you’d do if you thought you wouldn’t? You accusing me of being a pedophile? Nope; just accusing you of thinking like one. Anita figures that Olaf would know a thing or two about that.
Rankin shoves Olaf against the wall, and it’s on. 373 pages.
Olaf open hand slaps Rankin, staggering him. Rankin tries to fight back; Tyburn opens the door so the rest of them can escape. Next thing Rankin goes flying and crashing into the hallway. Olaf lands an elbow to the temple and that’s it. Anita now realizes she *never* wants to mix it up with Olaf. 375 pages.
Rankin gets sent to the hospital (still without anyone knowing about his powers- nice job breaking it, heroes) and Tyburn treats Anita & co. like co-workers instead of busybodies. Dalton comes into the lobby, trailed by Micah, Nate, Rodina, Ru, Nicky, Bram; she needs to talk to Tyburn. Tyburn tells a cop to escort the Four Horsemen to the crime scene. While calling Bernardo, Micah explains Dalton thought she was in love with Rankin; he had his claws deep in her.
Bernardo struts in, with his zexxy self and it’s time to go. Anita’s brain (such as it is) finally engages and she realizes Rankin’s gonna be at the hospital with Peter and Donna; she sends Rodina & Ru to check on things, keeping the main boitois with her. Bernardo is bemused that starting a fight with Olaf got them a look at the crime scene; so is the cop escorting them. 380 pages.
It’s Anita’s first crime scene by the ocean- yay! Tyburn’s given them the go-ahead; just want to know what they find out. It’s officially Bettina; she’d been gutted like a melon, skin peeled back and hollowed out. No spatter along the beach, no smell of decay or offal from the bowels and no marks they can recognize- human or otherwise. How was this done and why?
There’s a bite mark along the ribcage- possibly a were did this. Maybe, but looks more like human teeth; real question is how’d they get the organs out so skillfully. Need a lot of practice for that. Olaf doesn’t even detect the scent of a were- as far as he can tell in human form. So what the hell? 390 pages.
79%, 50 chapters, 390 pages and I honestly can't remember the last time I saw or heard anything about a fucking snake person.
They catch Tedward up on the situation; he automatically believes Rankin isn’t human simply because Anita says so- she’s cool like dat. They spot Rankin outside; looks like he’s waiting for someone. Tedward notes he looks like he’d fit in with Anita’s crew. Anita’s kinda meh, but Nate likes what he sees. Micah says it’s the first time Nate talked about another man in front of him.
Rankin is slender, like Micah (since when?) and everyone notes that he kind of looks like Mike, too. Lots of cops around now, so it looks like they found something. So much activity helps Nate focus on the missing woman, Bettina, and not on Rankin and what he said to him. Huh? Soon as he saw Rankin, Nate wanted to get closer, and Rankin wanted Nate to tell him what he’d done, to confess. Micah could tell Rankin was mind-fucking them, but he couldn’t fight it. Rankin’s power is like a promise, a tease- being near you guys and touching you is real.
Using Undue Magical Influence or Magical Malfeasance, especially if someone dies, gets you the Death Penalty in every state. But if he does it in a state without the Death Penalty, he might not get fully charged under the law, so he might not get Death Row. (is it me or this utterly nonsensical?) They don’t mess around with weres & paranormals; trial & execution are so fast, your head’ll spin.
A cop comes over; Anita and Ted flash their badges, so the cop confirms they’ve got something, and it’s pretty bad- sounds like it’s Bettina. (which would be consistent with none of Anita’s people getting hurt since they all know Denny)
Det. Rankin spots them and chews out the cop for talking to them as only Anita & Ted have badges. Micah observes Rankin wants to attract attention to them. Tedward steps up to talk to him and the hissy fit continues- in front of the press and everyone with a smartphone.
Rankin turns his attention to Nate, telling him he should confess what he did. Nate, dazed & confused, agrees. Anita moves to intervene, touching Rankin’s shoulder, and ends up just as mind-fucked as Nate (sic). 357 pages.
(LKH *really* likes using the term “mind-fucked” for some reason.)
Anita panics, but JC helps her break free by letting him through her shields and she feels a kiss- it’s Ru, as her Bride, serving her needs. Now everyone’s got pics of Ru kissing Anita Blake. Tedwards arguing with a group of cops, so maybe Anita should go help out. Problem is explaining what just happened. 361 pages.
The female cop, Dalton, arguing with Tedward is the local psychic- the only one in the area. She has enough curves to not look like a boy in a polo and slacks. Dalton felt the mojo, and not knowing about Rankin thinks it’s Anita’s fault for bespelling people (well, of course, but LKH makes it seem like she’s a dipstick for it). Anita decides to correct her terminology, calling it a mind-fuck (there it is again!). Dalton concedes it felt pretty strong, so maybe… mind-rape? NO! No maybe; it was MIND-RAPE!1! So how can you be so calm about mind-raping an officer, Blake? NO! Not me- him; HE MIND-RAPED ME!
Rankin shows up to chime in- yeah, it wuz Anita. Anita asks Dalton if she’s felt this power before- yeah. Then it couldn’t have been me since I just got to town! Hmmm…
Rankin slides over to touch Dalton… (to MIND-FUCK HER!!!) and her eyes glaze over. Anita steps in, moving Rankin away, and keeps talking to Dalton. Tedward comes to help out, repeating Anita’s point and asking her to check out the boys in the car to see that it’s not them.
Anita and Rankin square off; Anita focusing on his chest. If someone’s gonna attack you, they have to move their center mass first. That’s where their arms are attached- think about it (sic). (The More You Know)
Rankin tries calling out to Dalton but Anita cuts him off. She pulls his card, raising her voice loud enough to be overheard that this won’t help them find the other missing woman. Rankin gets desperate, tries to push past Anita to get to Dalton but she blocks him.
It’s already too late for your friend, Blake! Dammit!- it was Denny! Nope; but that’s all you’re getting from me! I’m a Fed! And your buddies are suspects!
Suddenly, another cop- Capt. Tyburn- shows up, demanding answers from Rankin. Tyburn’s wife sent him a video- from the INTERNET!- of Rankin yelling at Blake and co., and it looks like you’re playing up to the cameras. (Damn, that was fast!) So you and I are gonna have a talk- now! 367 pages.
(Don’t know about y’all, but I’m feeling pretty MIND-FUCKED myself right now)
Aunty Anita has some quality time with Becca. Anita wonders if Olaf had something to do with the missing woman. 307 pages.
Anita calls Bernardo to let him know Olaf’s here. Bernardo tells Anita that Peter’s healing faster than normal, and the medical team is asking about his weretiger scars- people who get vaccinated after an attack have a few enhanced abilities, even if their blood tests normally. Except Peter wasn’t vaccinated… but one of the wererats, Cisco, died in that attack and he bled all over Peter. The vaccine, like any other, is just a different form of lycanthropy to cancel the other one out. Yep. So, maybe his blood acted like a vaccine?- could be. 313 pages.
Anita, Olaf & Becca head back to the elevator and the local sheriff, Rufous Martinez, bumps into them. Rufous seems ready for trouble. In the lobby, they run into Nicky; turns out the cops ran Nate’s name and up came his entire record, including juvenile convictions. The mist of another urine spray reveals Nate’s history concerns the cops, as sexual assault victims can turn into predators. Plus he’s a Were. How’d you know that? Google, dumbass- he’s all over the Guilty Pleasures website. Olaf notices Rodina & Ru and their new closeness to Anita. Anita wants to talk to Detective Rankin that Nate’s not the guy. 329 pages.
(Now I’ll confess to skimming, but I don’t recall seeing Rankin’s name before, so for it to pop up like this outta nowhere just says lazy writing/lack of editing to me. I’m not going back to check, but if I’m wrong I’ll be happy to admit it)
Detective Rankin is questioning Nate and the cops won’t let Anita in to see him, so she texts Micah. They’re not being officially held, but Rankin’s making things difficult. He doesn’t have a warrant; lawyer up or walk out. Ok… um, we can’t leave. WTF? Dunno- we keep trying to leave… but don’t.
Anita lowers her shields to get in contact with her guyz… but forgets she’s standing near Ru, so as one of her Brides he gets some kind of blowback.
Micah emerges from the room, leading Nate by the arm. Nate’s not himself, dazed. Detective Rankin steps into view, and he seems… zexxier than before, though nothing’s different. He’s got some kind of persuasion or seduction power; Anita runs through a mess of descriptors about him. They stare each other down. He knows they know… and they know he knows… and he knows they know he knows… ok, but- what is he? 335 pages.
Tedward calls to check in, since they’re also still watching Becca. Topic shift to kids- no way, not now! Musing about what Rankin is all about. 339 pages.
They go to the hospital to see Peter. Wedding plans have to change, which royally pisses Nate off with all the work he put into it. Speaking of wedding planning, anyone seen Denny lately? Uh oh. Someone’s gotta call Det. Rankin, magic or not, since it’s his case. How ‘bout calling someone else to go check her room? Great idea; hey- why do we always assume the worst? Because it’s us, that’s why. Tru dat. Guess what?- she ain’t in her room and doesn’t look like she’s been there for awhile. Crap. 346 pages.