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

Title: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Author: Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Quirk
Publication date: April 7, 2020
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Horror
Source: Purchased

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

Let me just get this out of the way: I LOVED this book. The setting is perfect, the community and marital dynamics are spot-on, and the creep factor is through the roof. Grady Hendrix does it again!

Here’s the situation: Patricia Campbell lives with her husband and two children in the Old Village, a neighborhood in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina — just across the bridge from Charleston — where everyone knows each other and looks out for one another, where an unknown car is immediately noticed, where no one locks their doors because it’s safe, and anyway, not really in line with standards of Southern hospitality.

[Fun fact: I once lived in Mount Pleasant for a couple of years, a long time ago, so the setting here just thrilled me to bits and pieces.]

The women of Old Village are mothers and housewives, and when Patricia and a few others realize that a “literary” book club isn’t to their taste (i.e., none of them actually read Cry, The Beloved Country and get roundly shamed for it), they form their own club — focused on true crime stories and bestselling thrillers. And they love it. The women bond over Helter Skelter and The Stranger Beside Me, and they also become best of friends.

The community’s placid life is disrupted when Patricia is attacked by her elderly neighbor Ann Savage. It’s brutal and frightening, and results in Patricia’s earlobe being bitten off. Ann dies, but her visiting nephew James Harris decides to stay and settle in the neighborhood — and his appearance starts a chain of strange and eerie events.

Note: The Goodreads blurb (above) describes James Harris as “artistic and sensitive”. He’s not.

Patricia becomes more and more suspicious of James, but he’s quickly insinuated himself into the lives of the families of Old Village, including becoming business partners with most of the husbands, investing with them in a real estate development that promises huge payoffs. And when Patricia tries to sound the alarm after witnessing a horrifying act, her psychiatrist husband treats her like she’s crazy, and then forces her to choose: Either give up this nonsense about James, or give up her marriage and family.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a horror story, a snapshot of a time and place (1990s upscale South), and a snide commentary on women’s voices and the men who ignore them. The women in this story are all smart, but all subservient to their husbands — all of whom are the providers and the decision-makers. It’s particularly telling that the small, intimate, enjoyable book group gets completely turned upside down once the men decide they need to step in — turning into a gathering of 40+ people, reading Tom Clancy books and completely ignoring the opinions and preferences of the women who actually started it all.

There’s also pretty harsh critique of the insularity of the privileged. So long as the bad things are happening to other people’s children — particularly, to the children of a poor black community — the people of Old Village don’t seem to be too bothered. There’s an “it can’t happen here” attitude that only Patricia seems to have an issue with. For the husbands especially, the deaths and disappearances have nothing to do with their own lives, and in any case, the accusations that Patricia makes sound ridiculous, and perhaps more importantly, could cause problems with their business investment, and well… we can’t have that.

Don’t forget, though, that this is a horror novel, despite the snark and the humor. I like horror, and I don’t have a problem with blood and gore… but that said, there were two scenes in this book that absolutely CREEPED ME THE EFF OUT. I just don’t do well with creepy-crawlies, and these two scenes were intense and GROSS. (Okay, yes, I still loved the book, but HELLO? NIGHTMARE MATERIAL!)

Grady Hendrix does an amazing job of pulling this story together, making the relationships touching and real while also being creepy and scary — and then having the women save the day through their own version of brutal kick-assery. It’s a great read, thoroughly enjoyable… but maybe not for the squeamish.

I have one more of Grady Hendrix’s books on my shelf still to read, but so far, I’ve loved everything of his that I’ve read.

Check out my reviews of his previous books:
My Best Friend’s Exorcism
Paperbacks from Hell (non-fiction)

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank

I’m delighted to be participating in the blog tour celebrating the paperback release of The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank.

Hurricane Sisters


Hurricane season begins early and rumbles all summer long, well into September. Often people’s lives reflect the weather and The Hurricane Sisters is just such a story.

Once again Dorothea Benton Frank takes us deep into the heart of her magical South Carolina Lowcountry on a tumultuous journey filled with longings, disappointments, and, finally, a road toward happiness that is hard earned. There we meet three generations of women buried in secrets. The determined matriarch, Maisie Pringle, at eighty, is a force to be reckoned with because she will have the final word on everything, especially when she’s dead wrong. Her daughter, Liz, is caught up in the classic maelstrom of being middle-age and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. And Liz’s beautiful twenty-something daughter, Ashley, whose dreamy ambitions of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds.

Luckily for Ashley, her wonderful older brother, Ivy, is her fierce champion but he can only do so much from San Francisco where he resides with his partner. And Mary Beth, her dearest friend, tries to have her back but even she can’t talk headstrong Ashley out of a relationship with an ambitious politician who seems slightly too old for her.

Actually, Ashley and Mary Beth have yet to launch themselves into solvency. Their prospects seem bleak. So while they wait for the world to discover them and deliver them from a ramen-based existence, they placate themselves with a hare-brained scheme to make money but one that threatens to land them in huge trouble with the authorities.

So where is Clayton, Liz’s husband? He seems more distracted than usual. Ashley desperately needs her father’s love and attention but what kind of a parent can he be to Ashley with one foot in Manhattan and the other one planted in indiscretion? And Liz, who’s an expert in the field of troubled domestic life, refuses to acknowledge Ashley’s precarious situation. Who’s in charge of this family? The wake-up call is about to arrive.

The Lowcountry has endured its share of war and bloodshed like the rest of the South, but this storm season we watch Maisie, Liz, Ashley, and Mary Beth deal with challenges that demand they face the truth about themselves. After a terrible confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness, but can they establish a new order for the future of them all?

Frank, with her hallmark scintillating wit and crisp insight, captures how a complex family of disparate characters and their close friends can overcome anything through the power of love and reconciliation. This is the often hilarious, sometimes sobering, but always entertaining story of how these unforgettable women became The Hurricane Sisters.

My Thoughts:

In The Hurricane Sisters, we meet three generations of Southern women, including dynamo matriarch Maisie, her daughter Liz, and granddaughter Ashley. All three have secrets, all three have struggles.

Maisie is the quintessential 80-year-old who’s lived long enough to tell it like it is. Her romantic relationship with (gasp!) a younger man, the 65-year-old who was originally hired to be her driver, scandalizes Liz and Clayton, but their own relationship isn’t exactly a bed of roses. Maisie is the absolute life of the party in this book — she’s feisty, opinionated, funny, and full of passion. She’s also not afraid to tell the hard truths and give out some pretty stern advice, which is exactly what some of these confused family members need.

When Ashley becomes infatuated with a rising state politican, everyone in the family warns her to watch out. In Charleston, anyone of good family knows everyone else’s business, and Porter Galloway has an unsavory reputation that’s only whispered at. Meanwhile, on the surface, he’s all Southern charm and good looks, and Ashley is too swept up in her dreams of being the next Jackie O. to take the warnings seriously.

Of course, the various threads all come together in interesting and unexpected ways… and of course, Maisie is right about everything!

The dark thread throughout this mostly upbeat novel is violence against women. Liz is a fundraiser for a women’s shelter, and through her pitches to prospective donors, we learn some of the bleak and staggering facts about the incredibly high numbers of domestic violence cases in the US, as well as the fact that South Carolina is among the worst on record in terms of domestic homicide and violence. It’s not exactly a surprise when a certain character is revealed to be abusive, but it’s still startling and harrowing to read and to see how easily this person manages to hide in plain sight and continue carrying out abusive acts in relationship after relationship.

I was annoyed initially to see Ashley’s naiveté, especially knowing her mother’s work. But I think this book makes a very good point, that it’s one thing to know academically what abuse is and what it looks like, and quite another thing to recognize it in real life without prettying it up with denial and excuses. I won’t go into too much detail here as I don’t want to give away any major plot points, but let’s just say that what I initially thought was a too-light response to terrible acts turns into major empowerment as the family comes together to make sure that abusive behavior is not swept under the rug.

I ended up loving all of the family relationships, the intricacies of their connections and interdependence, and the various ways they all misunderstand one another. By hearing the story from mulitple points of view, we’re treated to the inside scoop on why an action that one family member finds incomprehensible actually makes complete sense and has a totally different meaning when explained by someone else.

An especially delightful component of this book is the lush description of the Charleston area. The author does a splendid job of conveying the beauty of the Lowcountry, and made me absolutely mad with nostalgia (I lived in Charleston once upon a time for a couple of years) and dying for a return visit.

If you enjoy books that include family drama, quirky characters, and humorous dialogue — but aren’t afraid to tackle more serious subjects as well — definitely check out The Hurricane Sisters. Now available in paperback, it’s a slice of Southern fiction that I think would make a great beach read this summer.

About the Author:

Dorothea-Benton-FrankNew York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She is the author of many New York Times bestselling novels, including Lowcountry Summer and Return to Sullivans Island. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

Find her on the web at, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


The details:

Title: The Hurricane Sisters
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: 2014 (paperback released April 7, 2015)
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Adult contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours

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