Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix

Well hello there, fellow spookingtons. Come sit a while, warm yourself by the fire, and I’ll tell you a tale. A tale of vampires… and a book club. That’s right, this week’s review is for The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix. In a nice, meta twist, I actually read this for my book club too! However, I should state that no vampires were harmed during the writing of this review.

This review contains an affiliate link to, which will earn me a small commission if used, and will earn independent bookshops a whole lot more.

The charming suburban town of Mount Pleasant in South Carolina seems like the last place in the world where anything bad could happen. Or anything at all, really. Along with a group of her fellow housewives, Patricia Campbell has one thing to look forward to, and one thing only – her beloved book club. Along with Kitty, Slick, Grace and Maryellen, Patricia devours true crime and grisly murder books with a passion. It’s all in good fun. Then the mysterious James Harris arrives in the neighbourhood, and Patricia’s life is turned upside down by this charming stranger. But there’s more to this new arrival than meets the eye, and Patricia will need all the help she can get to resist his malign influence.

Luckily for both Patricia and us, that help comes in the form of said book club, the members of which are a constant delight. There’s Kitty, with her untidy house and love of chunky plastic jewellery, Grace with her exacting standards and manners, Slick with her sermonising and Maryellen, the tough nut, out-of-town feminist. The dialogue between these characters is sparky and fun throughout, and every book club meeting we see is a real treat. Their conversations, in which they move from talking about the book to discussing their families and the neighbourhood gossip, are always entertaining, as well as revealing. The way the characters speak to one another, their well observed gestures, the clear group dynamic; it all gives us so much feel for them without us having to be explicitly told everything about them. It’s extremely skilfully done, with the dialogue doing a lot of work, and doing it very well. Consider this passage, for example, which in one short exchange tells us something about every character:

“She’s already picky about food. I’m worried that it’s a teenager thing.”

“Already?” Kitty asked.

“She’s fourteen,” Patricia said.

“Being a teenager isn’t a number,” Maryellen said. “It’s the age when you stop liking them.”

“You don’t like the girls?” Patricia asked.

“No one likes their children,” Maryellen said. “We love them to death, but we don’t like them.”

“My children are a constant blessing,” Slick said.

“Get a life, Slick,” Kitty said, biting into a cheese straw, showering crumbs into her lap, brushing them off onto Grace’s carpet.

Patricia saw Grace flinch.

Outside of the book club, things are less than rosy. And that’s before we even address the whole undead monster issue.

There are expectations placed upon Patricia and her friends. Expectations to be dutiful wives, mothers and homemakers. To be always ready with a smile and a kind word for a neighbour in the street, to maintain a tidy home at all times ready to receive guests, and, what’s more, to be satisfied with this situation. With two children and her senile mother-in-law to watch over, Patricia is under a level of strain that her oblivious husband Carter can’t even begin to comprehend. It’s the everyday little horrors of life in suburbia, the feeling of being stifled and slowly smothered, that are ingeniously thrown into sharp relief by the arrival of the classic evil monster. Indeed, the extremely awkward social situations that Patricia finds herself in can be just as toe-curling and squirm-inducing as any of the more conventionally unpleasant scenes throughout. It’s a set-up that’s both insightful and wickedly well done, with some extremely well timed and perfectly pitched gags and references to homemaking that hit the mark every single time.

But what of the undead elephant in the room? Where is our vampire in all this? As a newcomer to the neighbourhood, James Harris seems to be trying everything he can to fit in. But it soon becomes clear he’s fitting in a little too comfortably. He is a pervasive and intrusive force throughout, a seemingly charming individual who may or may not have a dark past, and one who seems hell bent on forcing himself into every aspect of Patricia’s life. You might think that with the clear warning signs, it would be obvious whether or not James Harris was a creature of the night. But in another expertly conceived twist on the genre, Hendrix keeps us guessing as to his actual motivations. There’s something not quite right about him – that much is clear – but whether it’s horror of a supernatural kind, or the more everyday grisly murderer horror, or even something less sensational, it’s not made obvious for quite some time. Much of the unpleasantness associated with him is due to the masculine energy with which he imposes himself upon the lives of the characters, particularly Patricia, the safe spaces in which she can be herself shrinking as he spreads his influence further.

In this tale of suburban hell, Grady Hendrix reminds us that the real monsters aren’t always the ones with claws and fangs, and that there are fates every bit as horrifying as a gruesome end at the hands of a creature of the night. With warmth, insight, and a wicked sense of humour, this is a must-read.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is out now, published by Quirk Books. You can order your copy through this affiliate link.

Currently reading: The Pursuit of William Abbey, Claire North
Currently listening: Endarkenment, Anaal Nathrakh

13 thoughts on “Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix

  1. […] Blending humour and horror can be a taller order than many realise. It’s almost unfair, then, that Bram Stoker Award winner Grady Hendrix seems to manage it with such ease. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires follows Patricia Campbell, who joins a book club with some fellow housewives to indulge in their love of true crime, as well as giving them a much-needed escape from their home lives. A mysterious stranger moves into the neighbourhood, and its not long before sinister events galvanise the loveably disparate group into action. Read the full review here. […]


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