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Skin Trade (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 17) by Laurell K. Hamilton
Review by Harriet Klausner
Berkley Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425227725
Date: 02 June 2009 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

She has the highest kill count of all the vampire executioners in the country and is also the first necromancer in centuries. The evil vampires and shifters fear Anita Blake who has begun to believe the laws for vampire executions are overly prejudicial against those who have killed due to extenuating circumstances. Anita also realizes since she only socializes with the supernatural, the human Federal Marshals no longer trust her. She wonders if the time has come to quit her job because her sympathy on many cases lies with the monster.

One person Anita feels needs to die is the serial killing vampire Vittorio. He murdered several people in St. Louis but vanished before she could execute him. He sends her a gift of a man's head with a postmark of Las Vegas. She knows he is taunting and challenging her to a life and death contest; she accepts and flies to Sin City. Edward, also a Federal Marshall is there waiting to be on the hunt; also in town is serial killer Olaf who has a crush on Anita and hopes that they one day will kill together.

In Vegas, the sheriff in charge of the case hassles Anita because of her relationships. Crispin, one of the were-tigers Anita previously helped, and another supernatural being will be able to feed the ardeur before it gets out of control. Marmee Noir, the creator of the vampire lines, visits Anita and changes something in her body chemistry. She has plans for the necromancer that gets in the way of Anita. Belle Morte, Jean-Claude's creator does not want Marmee Noir waking up so gives Anita the power to stop her. The necromancer is horrified to learn she was lured to Las Vegas by those with the power of godlike beings.

Readers who liked the Anita Blake novel Obsidian Butterfly are going to appreciate Skin Trade, which is similar in tone to the earlier sagas when the protagonist was just a supernatural detective. There is very little sex in this thriller and what there is remains relevant to the story line. None of the recurring support characters except Edward appear though Anita makes a few brief calls to Jean-Claude, but the conversations only last for seconds. Instead Anita makes new allies as she and Edward team up. Surprisingly they are pure magic together while we also finally learn why Marmee Noir is interested in Anita.

In many ways this is a throwback tale that is quite enjoyable. The heroine tries to trick the antagonist as she copes with her ardeur; police officials who distrust her and get in her way as she tries to do her job. She also deals with men, who want her (some want her dead) as motives vary. Although the last few entries were fun, Ms. Hamilton has returned to what made the Anita Blake series great. She is the intelligent Anita (instead of the perpetual sex machine) working a supernatural case in which she can rely on no one but herself until she accepts Edward as a partner; while also dealing with other authorities who claim jurisdiction. Laurell K. Hamilton had written a dynamite tale that readers will thoroughly enjoy.

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