The Laughing Corpse  - Laurell K. Hamilton, Kimberly Alexis Anita Blake receives an offer to raise a 280 year old Zombie. But such a raising would require a human sacrifice, and Anita draws the line there. Dolph then summons her to the grisly scene of a crime--the remains of a family. Anita must now find the killer...before anyone else dies.

Even though I didn't care for either the novel or the graphic novel of Guilty Pleasures, I decided to give this series another chance. I am glad I did, because this book was a lot more enjoyable than the previous book was.

Anita Blake comes off far more likeable this time around. Sure, the chip on her shoulder threatens to devour her small frame, she could definitely use some anger management, and she has some views that seem a bit harsh (such as her angry tirade when a man wants to let his wife know what he will be doing late at night and how he is basically being pansy-whipped), but I at least cared about what happened to her. I also started to get some understanding of her background, of her beliefs, and of her struggles between what she does and how she justifies it to herself.

The character list is much shorter this time around too, which helped me get more acquainted with some background characters. I continue to adore Ronnie, and I even have a new favorite character: Manny. That guy was totally awesome. Burt, Anita's boss, was bland, Gainer was pretty meh, Dominga was interesting (but I didn't like what happened to her), and Wheelchair Wanda wasn't too bad. Jean-Claude definitely has the sex appeal down pat, though I can't really say there was anything that really jumped out at me about him. He feels a lot like arm candy for Anita--he likes her because she hates him and that's where the Unresolved Sexual Tension comes from. Of course, there have been FAR WORSE male romantic interests out there, who have absolutely NO chemistry with the leading lady, so I don't want to give the impression that I despise him. Just that I can't see his purpose very clearly.

One thing I didn't like about the characters was the racial stereotyping and the sexism. The male police officers sexually harass Anita--and no one does anything. Not acceptable. A Latina woman bemoans how Anita makes enough money to take care of herself and thus not make her want to find a man. All bodyguards are beefy and somewhat brainless; blondes tend to be stupid and airheads (unless they are Ronnie). After awhile, I wanted to start apologizing for their portrayal.

The story this time around was told in a much cleaner, more traditional format that made it much easier for me to follow. Anita gets client, refuses offer. Police call her to scene, she starts to investigate. Makes sense. However, Anita still did very little investigating on the murder case. She did investigate why Gainer was after her, but that plotline almost dominated. In fact, Anita spent so much time on the Gainer plot that a total of THREE families were brutally murdered. Of course, her own life is important, but Anita spent WAY more time about something she WASN'T getting paid for. Seemed weird. She also spends WAY too much time yakking it up with Jean-Claude, getting him to explain the whole human servant thing and then having him escort her around the Tenderloin (which I couldn't help but snicker and yell, "STEAK!" at). And I so didn't care for how the killer Zombie ended up tying into the Gainer subplot. It almost felt like a children's book, where all the plots tie up neatly at the end.

The writing is serviceable, but certainly nothing to write home about. LKH has this tendency to latch onto certain words and repeat them over...and over...and over. Here are a few excerpts:

"She had meant to kill me…Why kill me? I couldn't stop her legally; she knew that. So why make such a damned serious attempt to kill me? Dominga had given her word she hadn’t raised the killer zombie…she had something to do with the killer zombie…she’d raised the beast or why kill me the night after I talked to her?...She wouldn't just raise a killer zombie and let it loose."

"He stood in front of me, hands at his sides. He stood very still. Snakes or birds can stand utterly still, but even a snake has a sense of aliveness...Jean-Claude stood there with no sense of anything."

"I lifted the hand from the carpet...I wouldn't really have thrown the hand. I wouldn't. I cradled the tiny hand in my hands. It felt heavy, as if the fingers should curl around my hand...I dropped the hand on the carpet."

“I decided to take the beating…I was going to get beat up, not pleasant, but I had made my mind up to take the beating…if my choices were A) getting beat up or B) performing human sacrifice, I’d take the beating.”

And then we have the gore. I didn't mention it last book because it wasn't that noteworthy, but this time around, WOWEE, there is a lot of blood and guts. We get description of at least THREE grisly death scenes and at least one has a child brutally mauled. We have Anita fighting, and she fights dirty at times. Do not read while eating or if you are mild of stomach.

This is definitely an improvement over "Guilty Pleasures", which I thought was rambling and centered more on Anita avoiding death than investigating anything. Sure, this has loads of problems, but they are a quick read/listen and it wasn't too bad. I might check out a few more and see where to go from there.