Ever since I read My Best Friend’s Exorcism a few years back, Grady Hendrix has topped a very short list of Authors Whose Books I Instantly Buy Hardcover Copies of Upon Their Release, While Simultaneously Reading Their Backlist Books. The list of authors is shorter than the title… So, when the Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was released, I told multiple people I wanted it for Christmas. It was the only thing I asked for, last year. Thankfully at least one person listened to me, and the book didn’t disappoint!
In 280 words or less…
1990’s suburban housewives escape boredom in Charleston, South Carolina through a book club that reads true crime novels. Real excitement enters their lives when James Harris moves in, and the children in their town start to go missing. The Southern Book Club thinks they’re hunting a serial killer, but they soon discover their predator is something supernatural instead.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a disturbing twist on vampire lore, but monsters are not the only horror in this novel. This novel is also about a mother who loses her sense of self as she submits to domesticity and later descends into madness after her husband gaslights her. Patricia’s True Crime book club becomes her only refuge, but it’s only a matter of time before monsters– both the kind that is supernatural and the kind that is found in the home– infiltrate that too. From this reader’s perspective, it was the psychological trauma Patricia endured, not the literal monster, that was most terrifying. Vampires are pretend (aren’t they?), but emotional and mental abuse is very, very real. And in the Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, it felt real. I felt Patricia’s isolation as one-by-one her children and family and friends were stolen from her. I felt Patricia’s powerlessness when she tried to reveal James Harris’s true nature but was instead silenced by her own husband. What makes this story worthwhile though is the strong women and their friendship that is found at the center of the story. Even when external forces threaten these women and drive them apart, they still rally behind each other and fiercely protect each other when they need it the most.
This novel isn’t without its flaws though. Most notably, Hendrix attempts to illustrate the effects of systemic racism in the Charleston community but doesn’t seem to go beyond the surface of the issue. In many ways, the interactions between the Black women and the White women seem like a tool to wake up the White women to the racial injustices in their community. Also, when Black children start to go missing, Patricia (a white, upper-middle-class woman) tries to save them, and she comes across as a “White Savior“. Especially because it was really Mrs. Greene, a Black woman, who did most of the work to take down the monster.
Still, I thought the Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was a good book, and I never missed an opportunity to read some of the more gruesome passages to my husband just to watch him squirm… and he loves horror movies! This is a moderately paced, gory, and suspenseful novel but ends with satisfying vindication. If you like your horror fiction with a hint of true crime and Southern hospitality, you won’t want to miss this book.
Cold Brew Black Tea with Peach and Apricot from Lipton
Sweetened iced tea steeped from tea bags found among grocery store aisles is inescapable in the south. (I actually think the consensus is Luzianne > Lipton, but I’m working with what I have.) Add to that some peach flavor (because South Carolina actually harvests more peaches than the Peach State, Georgia), and you have the perfect nod to the book’s setting. Plus, I have memories of my own mother sipping instant Lipton iced tea (the horror!) during the 90s, and Lipton’s Cold Brew Black Tea is as instant as I’m willing to go.
Actually, if I’m honest, I didn’t enjoy the Lipton Cold Brew, but I can still imagine main character, Patricia, sun brewing this tea all the same.
Picard Blend Black Tea from Plum Deluxe
The Picard Blend Black Tea from Plum Deluxe is a pecan-flavored Earl Grey, and it captures the spirit of the book club perfectly. It’s an Earl Grey, so it’s perfect for suburban stay-at-home moms hellbent on keeping up appearances. The pecan-flavor is a (delicious) twist and represents the unexpected true crime book club that Patricia and her friends keep hidden from their husbands.
This blend doubles as a tribute to the setting of the book. The only blend that could best it is the Porch Sippin’ Pecan Black tea from Plum Deluxe.
Caramel Shortbread from DAVIDsTEA
The Caramel Shortbread from DAVIDsTEA offers a tart, fruity flavor that fades to a buttery sweetness, which reminds me of the crispy edge of a cookie. The finish is a mild nuttiness and the twang of something zesty that I associate with shortbread. I imagine this conservative cookie is the sweet treat Patricia and her friends would bake and serve during book club meetings.
Blood Orange Reflection from Plum Deluxe
This hibiscus-heavy blend is too tart for my personal tastes, but the red color and the blood orange flavor make the Blood Orange Reflection from Plum Deluxe the perfect blend for the blood-sucking fiend in this novel. I know the title alludes to a vampire, but the villain is more like a bug that needs to be exterminated.
Alternatives include: Blood Orange Tea from Adagio Teas
If you’re a fan of horror fiction, let me know about your favorites in the comments. And, if you’ve read the Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, let me know what you thought of it!
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
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.