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

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

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

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing (April 7, 2020)

Length: 13 hrs and 49 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Bahni Turpin

Grady Hendrix’s books are always such a joy to read, combining humor and horror with just the right amount of weirdness and even a touch of the disturbing. Once more, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is no exception, and it might even be my favorite book by the author so far.

Our story opens on a closely-knit neighborhood in South Carolina sometime in the late 1980s. Patricia Campbell is our protagonist, a stressed out and overworked mom and homemaker who should have known better than to join a book club. Between the household chores, afterschool activities, doctor’s appointments, teacher conferences, vet visits, shopping trips, and millions of other little errands on her to-do list, she barely has time to read beyond the first page of this month’s pick, Cry, The Beloved Country. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal…except she’s supposed to be leading the discussion at the club’s next meetup! After attempting to and failing to wing it, however, Patricia realizes that it’s not her lack of time that’s the problem, it’s the classic books they are forced to read. She’d so much rather be burying her nose in true crime or horror, so together with her fellow friends and stay-at-home moms, they started their own book club, reading only what they want to read while letting their husbands think they are a Bible study group.

Other than that though, life in the neighborhood is predictable as usual. That is, until a newcomer moves in across the street. James Harris claims to have arrived in town to take care of an elderly relative, but after they passed away, he decided to stay and put down roots. No one knows where he came from, but he has a lot of money and is well-connected. He quickly insinuates himself into the old boys’ club made up of the neighborhood men, charming his way into their businesses and lives. Despite this, Patricia senses something not quite right about James, and suspects he has something to do with some local children that have gone missing. Unfortunately, no one will believe her, not even her closest friends. Deep in her heart, Patricia knows she’s right, but how will she get others to listen?

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is my fourth book by Grady Hendrix, and like I said, it is probably my favorite of his so far, for several reasons. First of all, I felt an immediate connection to the main character, a mom whose workload and responsibilities never seems to end! Motherhood is an unending list of chores to do, errands to run, not to mention kids to feed, clothe, house, and shuttle back and forth to wherever they need to be. They’re not always the most thankful either, so I can relate. Plus, like Patricia, I love a good book and the satisfaction of letting one transport me to another world. Still, there were many aspects about our protagonist’s life that were new and fascinating to me too, such as her southern traditions and the fact her world felt distinctively late 80s/early 90s. It was a different time, and there were expectations for women like her to act and live a certain way.

Another thing I loved was the story. In a word, it was fun. Creepy too, at times. Of course, I would expect nothing less from a horror novel, except Grady Hendrix always brings his own unique brand of quirk to his work. You’ll get that here in spades, making this one a vampire book like no other, even though there’ll be plenty of classic Dracula references to tide you over (this is a book about a book club, after all). When it does its scary thing though, this book is nuts with the ick-factor and going overboard with the truly gruesome and macabre. Juxtaposed with the southern hospitality and the well-kept homes and manicured lawns, it just makes the horror even more pronounced with the overall wrongness of it all.

But now for the criticisms. None of these are dealbreakers by any means, but I’ve noticed how some of keep popping up again and again in the author’s books. One is the issue of cohesiveness. Hendrix’s stories feel like a bunch of pieces thrown together, and while most of these fit together the way they’re supposed to, every once in a while you’ll get a few plot orphans that go nowhere or they seem to hang untethered like a loose thread. One reason for this is the awkwardness of transitions, particularly the one big jump in time that occurs around halfway through the book. Also, the ending is just awful, anti-climactic and not very fitting. It’s like the author suddenly decided to throw as much blood as possible into the mix, and I’m just here shaking my head thinking, shock value does not a good ending make.

But overall, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was an entertaining read, no doubt about that. It was even more enjoyable in audiobook format, narrated by the incredible Bahni Turpin. I’ve listened to her narration on other books, but this was by far one of her best performances, considering the wide range of voices belonging to characters varying in age, gender, race, and class that she had to portray. Just a spot on and pitch perfect narration which I can’t praise or recommend highly enough.

44 Comments on “Audiobook Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix”

  1. I’ve bought this on audio, so with your few issues aside, I’m looking forward to listening to it, especially as you mention the narration in particular.
    Lynn 😀

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  2. Great review! This book looks good, but I’m not that good with horror, so I’m still doubting about reading this one haah!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

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  3. Your description of the main character evoked instant sympathy in me: while I am not tasked with parental duties, I nonetheless struggle with finding enough free time to read, so I could sympathize with that part of her makeup, and also with her desire to read entertaining, immersive books. The time setting sounds interesting as well, and a mention of vampires never fails to attract my attention… 😉
    This will certainly find a place on my TBR soon! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I read this last week and yep, the ending was pretty disturbing. While I know Harris was the antagonist, I felt that the husbands were more of a monster than he was. Sad huh? I really enjoyed this one as well but I need to know what Mr. Hendrix has against dogs. Yes, he redeemed himself somewhat with this one and Ragtag, but I was still bothered by the rat scene. Great review!

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    • Yeah, the husbands were awful, ugh! The sad thing was I didn’t think Carter was that bad at first, and then he just became more and more of an asshole! And yeah, poor Ragtag, though at least he made it through alive 😀

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  5. Okay, yep! I’m adding it to my TBR. I might even try the audiobook. I’m getting better at listening to them and retaining what I hear. I think the awful ending will annoy me too, I really think so, but all the good stuff you said before the criticisms sold me on it. And it’s a lot more good than bad.

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  6. Great review – though I’m too much of a wuss to enjoy this one. And an ending that involves a sea of gore… um. Nope. But I do think the premise sounds great fun and rather quirky.

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  7. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about this book, glad you liked it! I am thinking of trying it although the shock factor ending has me a little iffy. I mean, not that I mind a shocking ending, but gore or shocks for the sake of shocks aren’t necessarily my thing. Still, the positives sound like they outweigh the negatives. 🙂

    The 80’s setting sounds like it adds to the fun as well.

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  8. I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed this. Now that I’ve heard yours and a couple other positive reviews I’d like to give it a read. It does vaguely remind me of how I felt watching the original Fright Night movie back in the ’80’s. A newcomer to town, vampiric horror with a dose of humor. Good stuff!

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  9. There’s something quite awkward about this one, especially once we get into the issues you raise. I think the lack of cohesiveness and the ending would’ve annoyed me more than anything but I’m quite glad to hear how much you enjoyed your time with this one, to the point where it’s your favourite by this author! Hope he continues to excel in his writing! 😀 Great review, Mogsy.

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  10. I just finished this today and… I hated all the husbands way more than James Harris until the last 2-3 hours of the audiobook! They were awful! It was slightly disturbing and WOW!

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  11. Huh, the lack of cohesiveness and the over-the-top ending are both big nos for me, but I can see you still enjoyed it, despite those flaws – and I’m tempted to try it myself! 😀

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  12. Interesting. I have heard some great things from reviewers and then a couple of friends bounced hard off of it due to some of the violence in the book that they felt was unnecessary and I’m left in the middle wondering if I should check this one out or not. I think I probably will because vampires and I’m all about that but also there are some things you said here that intrigue me–that the darkness is all to contrast / expose the fakeness of the ‘goodness’ of the society. Think I’ll eventually add this one to my TBR.

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  13. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 04/25/20: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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