Skin Trade by LK Hamilton

I’ve been hearing a lot of reactions to Laurell K Hamilton’s latest Anita Blake novel; and, I don’t know about you guys, but I thought Skin Trade was freaking fabulous.

When a vampire serial killer sends Anita Blake a grisly souvenir from Las Vegas, she has to warn Sin City’s local authorities what they’re dealing with. Only it’s worse than she thought. Ten officers and one executioner have been slain—paranormal style. Anita heads to Vegas, where’s she’s joined by three other federal marshals, including the ruthless Edward. It’s a good thing he always has her back, because when she gets close to the bodies, Anita senses “tiger” too strongly to ignore it. The weretigers are very powerful in Las Vegas, which means the odds of her rubbing someone important the wrong way just got a lot higher.

For fans of the earlier Blake novels, I really think they’ll go for Skin Trade. It reminds me of the earlier novels where we get more crime mystery than sex and politics; but all three elements are still present. Hamilton started the ardeur story arc in Narcissus In Chains , but she’s finally got it to where it works with the crime solving, or in reality, adds to the difficulty level of solving said crime. However, the whole reason it’s finally working is because Anita has grown and matured so much and it’s obvious.

Through the last 16 novels, we’ve seen Anita go through, and endure, multiple hells and Skin Trade really showcases how much these experiences have shaped her, has made her character grow and has really just developed her into this amazing warrior. She’s not so emotionally driven as she used to be, yet when it counts, she has so much more emotion to display. A lot of Anita’s inner struggles stem from her lack of control over the ardeur, and all the other rapidly (spontaneously?) developing metaphysical powers, but through it all (including the intense sexual moments) she has gained so much control over other areas in her life that it gets pushed back and forgotten. A lot of people focus on the sex and how much her moral standards have fallen; but, she no longer gets angry just to be angry. When something happens that fucks with her morals and emotions, she doesn’t let the hysteria (or her fall back – anger) get in the way.  She may not want to deal with it, but she does and gets past it to the issue she needs to deal with and that’s not something she would have done in the past.

There was one thing that really stood out for me – Anita isn’t the only one who is tired. Tired of the revolving men, the metaphysical crap, the killings; Jean-Claude doesn’t show up much in Skin Trade, but you can sense the weariness in him when he does. Since Blood Noir, they’ve had to solidify their positions, try to work past a lot of the rumors that are hurting them, and I think they were starting to get comfortable and find a rhythm that was working before the crap in Vegas started.  This new problem makes it glaringly obvious that something has to happen and I think we’ll see it happen in the next novel.

Marmee Noir, the Mother of All Darkness, is dealt with. However, I’m not saying more than that. There are people who have not been satisfied, but I am. If you want to know more, hit the spoiler section, but I really don’t want to give too much away and I’m afraid I will if I say anything more.

Skin Trade is a lot like Obsidian Butterfly where the boys have been left behind and Anita is reunited with Edward, Olaf and Bernardo. It’s been awhile since the four of them have worked together and a bunch of revelations have occurred. One is a little creepy and involves Olaf and his intentions toward Anita, but I’m not sure if we should really be surprised by it. Plus, we’re given more of the mystery crime solving like the first few novels in the series, but you can tell it’s a later novel due to all the antagonism and prejudices the local law enforcers have towards Anita. Her reputation (and private life) proceeds her, however, this time around she acquires a few allies within their own department. The Las Vegas SWAT team has their own preternatural team and they are all psychics. Let’s just say there was a little “you show me yours, I’ll show you mine” and Anita finds that she isn’t the only freak on the case, which turns out to be a good thing when dealing with the undersheriff.

Honestly, I can kind of understand why we haven’t seen the crime-solving Anita of old while we’ve been in St. Louis.  With all the personal issues Dolph has regarding the supernaturals, and Anita’s blatant coziness with them, its no surprising that she hasn’t been invited to any of the cases.  However, I think we may seem Anita get more involved once she gets back from Vegas.  With the LVPD SWAT teams positive results, I can totally see her going back to St. Louis and trying to get something like that started there.   It’s even hinted at in the epilogue: Their pilot program of using practitioners is succesfful enough that other cities are talking about it – not St. Louis so far, but I have hopes.  It’s possible that LKH is going to take Anita into a new area of law enforcement, the SWAT, and let her get more domesticated with Jean-Claude and all her other lovers.  Well, as domesticated as you can get while still dealing with vampire and shapeshifter politics.

Overall, Skin Trade was such a great novel, that I completely lost track of time while I was reading it. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had that happen with a novel. There was never a dull moment; the sex was there, but nothing like it has been; and the action was believable more than fantastical. The whole Olaf thing was creepy, but I think something has been decided and we could get a resolution soon, if we ever do.

Honestly, I’ve heard that LKH has plans for 19 novels and would love to do more, but I haven’t heard if there are any more past the planned 19. If there isn’t, then this could actually be the beginning of the end for the series. I could totally see it. Everything gets wrapped up and we’re not left with a cliffhanger, at least nothing that we haven’t been left with for the past 14 novels – will Anita take the fourth mark? Personally, if LKH really wanted to end this series, she could do it with the next novel and call it good. There isn’t a major bad guy anymore and she just needs to settle Anitas’ personal life. However, I’m really hoping that this isn’t the end because I would hate to say goodbye to everyone. All of the men are fabulous (as well as the girls) and I really want to see what Richard ends up doing. He’s been kind of silent lately, but he’s the moodiest of them all and he has to be holding something back.

At the same time, this could so totally be the beginning of a new story arc and we may get to see Anita take the fourth mark and all the chaos that may happen.  I’m really hoping this is the case.

Either way, Skin Trade rocks and if you were a fan of the series back at the beginning, you should really pick this novel up. Well, you really need to get back into the series, get past the sex (i.e. start back at Micah), and get to this novel. It’s spectacular and I was so hooked that I ended up buying it at Barnes & Noble last night when I went to escape (Ian was such a monster yesterday) and I generally refuse to buy hardcovers unless I’m getting them signed.

Also reviewed by:
SciFiGuy
Darque Reviews
Genre Go Round Reviews
Pixie’s Book Reviews
Vampire Genre
Bitten by Books
Tez Says

Read Order:
Guilty Pleasures – review
The Laughing Corpse – review
Circus Of The Damned – review
The Lunatic Cafe – review
Bloody Bones – review
The Killing Dance – review
Burnt Offerings – review
Blue Moon – review
Obsidian Butterfly – review
Narcissus In Chains – review
Cerulean Sins – review
Incubus Dreams – review
Micah – review
Danse Macabre – review
The Harlequin – review
Blood Noir – review
Skin Trade – review
Flirt – review
Bullet (June 2010)

SPOILER ALERT —- SPOILER ALERT —- SPOILER ALERT

I keep seeing how Anita has sex with a 16 year old and she’s totally okay with that. WHAT THE HELL!  No where did I see where Anita was okay with the idea of sleeping with a 16 year old. Okay, she does it while Vittorio and the Mother are mind fucking her and she realizes/finds out about it afterwards, but she shows how mature she has gotten. She wants to go into hysterics, but she knows thats not going to help the case she is currently involved in and that they now have the daytime resting spot for Vittorio. She’s not okay with it, but she’s growing in the fact that she’s not letting her emotions control her as much. She even says that there is no way that Cynric is going to come to St. Louis because he’s a child. She’s not okay with it, but she’s not getting hung up on what has happened and is doing what she needs to do. She’s dealing with it instead of focusing on it. Definitely maturer than some of the earlier situations. Think back to Narcissus in Chains and her reaction to fucking Micah the first time. The same idea only she was conscience of that time and she freaked out way worse and what did it accomplish?  Absolutely nothing. She’s learning to accept that what happens to her when she has no control, she can’t change and she just has to deal with it. She’s not accepting sleeping with the 16 year old, she’s just moving on because she can’t change the past.

Even the whole Marmee Noir thing. It wasn’t as simple as a bomb blowing her up. She was battling Anita at the same time, but it was just all metaphysical and then Vittorio showed up and more conversation occurred (an obvious stall tactic on Vittorio’s side) and time just ended. Something tells me that if Vittorio hadn’t shown up, then there would have been more of a fight scene with her. And after reading it, I don’t think she’ll be back. HOWEVER, I can see Vittorio showing back up again (although I think it could be a stretch since he was eaten). I’m not sure why, but I think this was LKHs way of ending the Marmee Noir showdown with something not as fantastical as the other novels. Kind of like what Whedon did for season four of Buffy. The previous three seasons had these big battle scenes as the season finale, but he did something a little slower, calmer, for the fourth one. I think that was what LKH was trying for this. Anita has been through shit for the past how many novels? She needed an easy win and this was it. It made sense and considering all the vampires tend to think “old fashion” when fighting, the idea of blowing up her body probably never occurred to them.

What is it with the “rainbow of tigers”? Is there really such things as blue tigers? You know, I really didn’t think there was one. I had this down in my notes as a WTF, but I wiki’d it and yes there is a such thing as a blue tiger. It’s actually a Maltese Tiger and is a suspected coloration morph, reported mostly from the Fujian Province of China. Now that made me wonder if there were other tigers besides the standard white and orange tigers. So I went digging on Wikipedia again. I can tell you that Red Tiger sent me to Cougars. Nothing came up for Gold Tiger. A Black Tiger is just another color variant on the Tiger, so possible, but not common. And the only hit I had on Yellow Tiger was for a Chinese rebel leader who conquered the Sichuan Province in the middle of the 17th century. I think that is all the tigers that were “colorized” in Skin Trade.  After looking at more images of blue tigers, I think they could also be considered black tigers in the right light. So maybe a little confusion about their sightings have caused the black tiger to appear as well.

About Jackie 3273 Articles
I am a 30-something SAHM with two adorable boys and a supportive husband who is very tolerant of my reading addiction. I love to read and easily go through about a dozen books a month – well I did before I had kids. Now, not so much. After my first son was born, I began to take my hobby of reviewing a little more serious and started Literary Escapism to help with my sanity. I love to discuss the fabulous novels I’ve read and meeting all the wonderful people in the book blogging community has been amazing.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the referal!

    I didn’t see anywhere either that she was okay with the 16 year old, she seemed horrified to me! So glad Laurell eased back a little on the group dealings!

  2. “Skin Trade” certainly sounds fascinating and I bet it’s quite an interesting read. I think I’ll be checking out pretty soon. Also, If you like really strong fiction, in a mingle with the surreal, with adept psychological twists and full of the unexpected, you can try my novel, “A Diary of Wasted Years,” just published by Eloquent Books. I welcome any potential reader who might enjoy it.
    Thanks.

  3. @Pixie: Oh yes, she’s sooo horrified that instead of sitting the kid down and talking about it he pretty much is being set up to be the next part of the harem when he’s old enough. No accountability, again.

  4. Rislan – I disagree. I don’t think he’ll be set up in the harem. Anita clearly says that theres no way she’s bringing him to St. Louis even after he reaches legal age. He’s just too young for her. Remember, she was a little squeaked out when she found out Nathaniel was younger than her and Cynric is younger than Nathaniel. I don’t think he’ll be in St. Louis ever unless something drastic happens and JC brings him in without Anita knowing.

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