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Sucker Punch (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) Mass Market Paperback – July 27, 2021
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When a fellow U.S. Marshal asks Anita Blake to fly to a tiny community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on an emergency consult, she knows time is running short. When she arrives, there is plenty of proof that a young wereleopard killed his uncle in the most gruesome and bloody way possible. As the mounting evidence points to him, a warrant of execution is already under way.
But something seems off about the murder, and Anita has been asked for her expert opinion on the crime scene. Despite escalating pressure from local cops and the family’s cries for justice for their dead patriarch, Anita quickly realizes that the evidence doesn’t quite add up.
Time is against Anita, as the tight-knit community is up in arms and its fear of supernaturals is growing. She races to uncover the truth and determine whether the Marshals have caught the killer or are about to execute an innocent man—all in the name of justice.
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The tiny plane landed in the dark on a runway that felt way too short. When the plane finally skidded to a stop, I couldn't make my right hand let go of the armrest. Literally I'd held on so tight that my hand had locked up, as if holding on tight would have done a damn bit of good if the plane had wrecked. The pilot turned his head to look at me and give me a thumbs-up. I just stared at him, my heart in my throat. I was phobic of flying, and this bumpy trip in a four-seater Cessna hadn't done a damn thing to quiet my fears.
He took off his headset and said, "Oh, come on, it wasn't that bad, was it?" He smiled when he said it. I glared at him until his smile faltered. I was projecting badass while the only mantra in my head was I will not throw up. I will not throw up. Only knowing that a man's life hung in the balance had gotten me to climb into the progressively smaller planes until this final one.
"Well, welcome to Hanuman, Michigan, Marshal Blake," the pilot said at last, and opened the door.
As I pried my hand free of its death grip, I wondered again why I was doing this. Because it's your job, I thought. I kept telling myself that as I gathered my bags and fitted the big one through the door ahead of me.
The pilot said, "That bag's big enough to hold a body."
"Only if it was my size or smaller, though I guess I could cut it up and make almost anyone fit," I said as I got the rest of me and the smaller bag through the door and down onto the tarmac.
"Very funny," the pilot said.
I gave him the flat look until he said, "What's really in the bag?"
"Weapons," a man said as he walked toward us in the last light of the setting sun.
I'd had just a moment to see the forest, and then it was dark as if someone had turned the lights off. You know you're in the boondocks when it's that dark even before you step into the trees; in their shade, it would be cave dark.
I smiled at Marshal Winston Newman. He was as tall as the first time I'd met him, as in over six feet, but had more meat on his bones as if he was either gaining weight or gaining muscle. I'd have to see him in better light to be sure whether he was hitting the gym or hitting the donuts. His hair was still short underneath his white cowboy hat, but the hat wasn't brand-new anymore. The brim had been worked with his hands so that it made an almost sharp point over his face. It fit him now. When I'd first met him, the hat had struck me as a present from someone who hadn't really known him or wanted him to be more cowboy than he'd seemed.
He offered to take a bag so I could shake his hand, and I let him take it. I'd have done the same for him. "Thanks for flying out at the last minute, Blake."
"I appreciate you reaching out on this." I almost added rookie, but he wasn't one anymore. He was newer than me, but then most marshals in the preternatural branch were. There were only eight of us from the old days; everyone else was either dead, worse than dead, or retired.
"Thanks for helping me out, Jim," Newman said to the pilot, who was standing by his plane watching us.
"The Marchand family has been around here a long time, and Bobby is my friend, Marshal Newman. I appreciate you trying to give him a chance."
"You understand that if Bobby Marchand did this, then I will have to execute him," Newman said.
"If he killed old man Marchand, then he'll have earned it, but Bobby has been an Ailuranthrope since just after we graduated high school. He had it under control."
I was surprised that Jim knew the politically correct term for cat-based lycanthropy. Sorry, for Therianthropy, which was the new term for all of it since it didn't imply wolf like lycanthropy did. But a lifetime of using it as a general term was going to be hard to break for me.
"That's what everyone tells me. Thanks again, Jim. Marshal Blake and I have to get over to the sheriff's office." He started moving toward a big Jeep Wrangler that was parked in the grass beside the runway.
"Duke is a good man, Newman. He's just never seen anything like this."
Newman kept us moving toward the Jeep as he called back over his shoulder, "I'm not questioning Sheriff Leduc's competency, Jim."
"Good, but you watch out for his deputy, Wagner."
That made Newman stop and look back at the pilot. "What's wrong with Wagner?"
"He gets rough when he thinks he can get away with it."
"Does the sheriff know?" Newman asked.
"I don't know, but everybody else in town does."
"Thanks for the heads-up, Jim."
"Not a problem. I hope you and Marshal Blake work this out."
"Me, too, Jim. Me, too," Newman said as he opened the back door and tossed my bag of weapons in.
Since I already had the Springfield EMP 9mm in an inner pants holster, with my marshal's badge on the belt next to it-so if I had flashed it on one of the larger planes, they'd see my badge-plus two extra magazines in the cargo pockets of my pants, a folding Emerson wave knife from Gerber in another pocket, a small tactical flashlight, a very slender man's wallet, and my smartphone, I was okay being out of easy reach of the rest of my weapons and body armor. I went around to the passenger-side door and let myself in. I'd add two more knives and switch the EMP for my Springfield Rangemaster full frame .45 in a drop leg holster when I got the chance. I had a hip holster for it, but if I had to wear the body armor, I'd have to change to the drop holster anyway, just like the EMP would switch to a holster on the MOLLE strap system on the chest of the vest. Inner pants holsters were for concealed carry when you didn't want to spook the civilians. On an active warrant, by the time I was all geared up, concealed carry was an impossibility.
"Did you know that this Deputy Wagner had a rep for roughing people up?" I asked.
Newman settled himself behind the wheel of his Jeep and shook his head. "I hadn't heard the rumor, and as far as we know, that's all it is."
"How well do you know Jim the pilot?"
"Well enough to roust him out of bed on a Saturday and get him to fly you from the main airport to here."
"You knew he was Bobby Marchand's friend, so he'd be motivated."
"Is this your home base now?"
"It's not exactly a great post for a marshal. Did you choose it, or did you piss someone off?"
He smiled wide enough for me to see it as he pulled the Jeep out on the runway and drove like we were a plane getting ready to take off. I realized that there didn't seem to be any other paved area nearby. We passed a shed with a windsock, but that was it. It was the definition of middle of fucking nowhere.
"I chose it."
I looked at him and he laughed. "Don't look at me like that, Blake. I know it's not a hotbed of career opportunities, but I met a woman on a case, and it sort of rearranged my priorities."
I grinned at him. "And she's local to here, I take it."
"So, you sank your career to follow the love of your life to the Michigan wilderness?"
"No, but I decided that a quick rise through the ranks wasn't as important as being near the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with."
I spread my hands and said, "Hey, I don't throw stones at anyone's love life, Newman. My house has too much shiny glass on it, which reminds me, I promised to text them when I finally landed."
That made him laugh. It was good to hear the sound; it meant things hadn't gone completely to hell. It was bad, but he could still laugh. Some crime scenes stole laughter along with everything else. "It's nice I'm not the only one that has to text home. Some of the other marshals give me grief for it."
"Fuck them if their relationships aren't as good as ours," I said.
He laughed again. I smiled reflexively, typing on the phone. I was metaphysically tied to all the people I loved, which meant I could have just dropped my psychic shields and contacted at least some of them mind to mind, or they could have reached out to me, or in an emergency they could crash my shields, but that was damn distracting in the middle of a fight, so the deal was I'd text and call more like a regular Joe or Jill. Also, the other police were giving me enough grief about dating supernaturals, which was one of the politically correct terms for vampires, wereanimals, and anything else that wasn't strictly human. Once I'd have said straight human, but I'd been chastised for using the word straight. Between actual vocabulary guidelines for the job and civilians getting butt-hurt because of my word choices, I was thinking of just substituting the word fuck for the word they didn't like to see if they liked that better. If I was going to be offensive, I might as well go for broke.
I erased several texts and finally settled for "Landed safe. Love you. Miss you already." It seemed inadequate, but it was all true, and at least I'd remembered to text. Staying in touch when I was on the job out of town wasn't one of my best things, to say the least. Micah Callahan, one of my fiancŽs, was as bad as I was about it and traveled as much. Our mutual lovers had recently done an intervention to let us know we needed to do better.
The first return text binged on my phone. I wasn't surprised that it was Nathaniel Graison, one of my other fiancŽs, because he had been one of the main instigators of the intervention. His text said simply, "Thank you for texting. I know you don't understand why I need it. Love you back. I like that you miss me. Looking forward to the call tomorrow, or you back home before that." And there it was, the loving text turned into a nagging push. We had all agreed that I'd text when I arrived and that I'd call once a day if possible, or text again. Nathaniel was reminding me of what I'd agreed to do, which turned a loving text or phone call into an obligation, which kind of bugged me. The return texts came fast and furious after that, because the group text contained eight people, not including me. I'd actually been surprised at some of the lovers who had insisted on getting more long-distance attention and at the ones who were content with the status quo. Some of them answered in the group text, but others answered privately. I typed an answer to each one of them; only two made me smile. Jean-Claude's "Je t'aime, ma petite," and Nicky Murdock's "I know you love me. You don't have to keep texting me to prove it."
"I know it's none of my business, but how many people are you having to text while you're gone?"
"Enough," I said, and sighed. I scrolled through all the texts and realized I wasn't sure whom I had to call tomorrow morning if I was still here. I wouldn't know how long I'd be on the ground here until I knew more about the case. I put my phone away and said, "You didn't invite me here to talk about our personal lives, so what's up first on the crime busting?"
He smiled as he said, "Sheriff Leduc requested I introduce you before we head to the crime scene. We have to drive right by the sheriff's office, so it's not out of the way. Hell, you can see Bobby Marchand. Maybe you'll think of smarter questions to ask than I did."
"You were exactly what your name says when I met you, Newman, but that was a couple of years ago. You do okay on your cases."
"You checked up on me?" he asked, glancing away from the night black road; the headlights seemed to carve their way through the moonless night.
"I keep an eye on the newbies I meet."
"And I keep an eye on the careers of the marshals that I want to grow up to be," he said.
That made me laugh. "If you grow up any more, I'll need a ladder to shake your hand."
He joined me in the laughter, and we drove for a few minutes in companionable silence.
"It's a dark night up here," I said.
"The cloud cover is thick tonight, but if it clears off, you'll see stars here like I've never seen outside of the desert or the ocean."
"It's not just cloud cover, Newman. Last night was the dark of the moon, and tonight won't be much brighter. If Bobby Marchand has been a wereleopard-sorry, Ailuranthrope-for this long, he shouldn't even shift form this far from a full moon."
"It's one of the things that bothered me enough to try to delay executing him, and don't worry. I'm having trouble remembering all the new terms, too. Besides, we know that Bobby Marchand is a leopard, so we don't have to use the generic terms between us."
"Great. I appreciate that. I hate the new vocabulary. Do you have the warrant of execution in hand already?"
"Yeah, the judge e-mailed it to the sheriff's office and got it signed through DocuSign just hours after the body was discovered."
"I remember when getting the warrant faxed over was high-tech," I said.
"Yeah, it's all high-tech most of the time now. Fast and efficient, maybe a little too efficient."
"How much time is left on the warrant?" I asked.
"About sixty hours out of the original seventy-two. I should have called you sooner."
"Should isn't helpful, Newman. Concentrate on what we can do here and now. Second-guessing yourself just eats up your energy and time."
He glanced at me, then back at the road. "Maybe, but they've started to get really picky on extending the timeline on a warrant of execution."
- Publisher : Berkley (July 27, 2021)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 592 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1984804448
- ISBN-13 : 978-1984804440
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.23 x 1.24 x 6.76 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #36,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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I’d stopped reading LKH a few years ago. At the time I stopped, the books felt like 20% plot and 80% icky sticky orgies. I was bored.
But when I was offered a chance to read this, I was curious. Maybe something had changed. Maybe Anita was back to being a monster hunter. I decided to give it a try.
Keeping in mind that I’ve been away from the series a while, and I’m really not aware of what’s happened in recent books, but this…is weird.
There’s no sex. Zip. Zero. None. There’s sexual tension, but no icky sticky. If you love the icky sticky, you may want to stay away from this one. If that’s what made you stop reading it, you may want to try again.
There’s an honest to goodness plot! LKH has given us a pretty solid murder mystery plot and I, while I figured out the *who* pretty early, I was invested in the *why*.
You also have new PC terms for various types of shapeshifters and I was sooooo confused. I can’t even remember them now. My mind mentally stumbled every time Anita would talk about therio-somethings and ailu(um)-somethings and not-bipeds-but-something-similar-somethings.
You also have Olaf. Now, I kind of like Olaf in a makes-me-very-uncomfortable-to-admit kind of way. But Olaf in this book is…extra. Olaf (you know rapist sociopathic serial killer) + Anita might make you very uncomfortable in this book. And if it doesn’t, please stay over there and don’t come near me – ‘cause you kind of scare me.
I already mentioned the lack of sex, but you do have a very boring scene that feels about 10,000 pages long in which a bunch of character gather in a room and read off a laundry list of Anita’s sexual kinks. It’s a very unsexy scene.
I just don’t know who the book will appeal to. If you like the shifter sex shennanigans, you might be disappointed. If you like not thinking of rapists as hot, you might be disappointed.
Yeah, it’s just weird.
*ARC Provided via Net Galley
When the vampire power that causes all the sex kicks in its an interesting plot development. Anita has no control over it and at first didn't even know it existed or could affect her. In that situation the rape of Anita and her nonconsenting partners (which is what is happening when the vampire powers force sex between them) is understandable and I don't hate that. But as the books progress Anita refuses to learn to control these powers. That's when I started hating her. By refusing to control the power she is choosing to continue to rape everyone around her. Until finally she gets control of those powers and then she makes the conscious decision to do it. There are characters in this series that flat out say that they don't want to have sex with her. There's one that begs her not to use the power on him because he is a recovering addict of that power and is also gay. Guess who she uses it on? All of them. There are a couple of times when she uses it to good effect like when she uses it to enslave one of the bad guys that kidnapped her. But mostly just uses it because she can and she wants to.
I stuck it out until the book where they went to Ireland because I kept having hope that the series would return to Anita actually doing her job and fighting bad guys. I so hoped that book would be the one. I was disappointed and I refuse to waste my money on any more of Laurell K. Hamilton's drivel. That book had a stupid plot that showed potential for how good it could have been, stupid execution, and a whole lot of ridiculousness.
For those that don't know, Laurell came out as being poly herself several years ago so Anita being poly in the series makes sense as all her lead characters in her series are representative of herself. That's fine. My problem is that Laurell is using Anita Blake to work out the chips on her shoulder. Every single character you meet in probably the last 5-10 books falls into specific categories. They either: immediately want Anita and make it known; they want Anita and don't make it known and let jealousy make them angry and hateful towards her but of course she can smell their lust so she knows; it's a woman that wants one of her men and is bitterly jealous and so hates Anita (she has no female friends that she's not sleeping with. Although in the beginning she had one that, surprise surprise, falls into this category); or finally, they hate Anita because she sleeps around a lot, has a lot of scary powers, and/or is better at the job than they are. There's not a single person in the series that doesn't either want Anita or hate her. I feel so sad for Laurell that that's the kind of world she's living in because that much hate didn't start coming into the series until she came out irl.
And last, let me tell you about children. There is a boy in the series, teenager. 15 or 16 when he's introduced. He's one in the everybody rapes everybody, including Anita as a victim, group because a vampire takes over her powers. I don't have any feelings about that in any way. What I do have a problem with is that, after some moral back and forth, she eventually brings this boy home to finish raising him. She sends him to high school during the day and makes him do his homework and go to therapy but takes him to her bed at night. You decide how you feel about all that. I think it's gross. Then there's the subject of Anita having children herself. She's been very firmly in the category of not wanting them and KNOWING it would be stupid and dangerous, with her life being what it is. In the last book she was seriously considering having a baby. Not because she changed her mind and suddenly wanted one. That's an okay thing to do. No, she started thinking about it because one of her harem wants to have a baby with her and he kept picking and picking and picking at her and she wanted to do it to shut him up. For the love of all things good and right in the world. Anyone with a functioning uterus please do not follow this example! You have the right to not want children for any reason. And if you say no you have the right to keep saying no. If the man in your life keeps trying to coerce you into having them, walk away. He doesn't care about you because if he did he would respect your right to say no. Having a baby is a big deal. It changes your body and your life forever. Do not teach your daughters that it's okay to say no until a man comes along and suddenly it's a maybe yes, the way Anita has done in the series.
Basically, I'm done. This series gets 2 stars from me only because I enjoyed the first 8-10 books or so, but Anita Blake is not a good series. When the number of bad books outweighs the number of good, the series can no longer be counted as being good. (Also if you read this far, I'm shocked and I thank you for giving me your time. If you didn't read it all and skipped to the end, I understand and don't blame you)
Top reviews from other countries
My issue at the beginning is exposition which is rather like info dumping.
Yes, it's book 27, but I think a short 'About the series so far' style summary might work better than the repetition of last events through dialogue. There's a lot of "oh yes, I do remember the time" etc.
However, apart from that there's a lot to like here.
There's talk of sex but no longer lots of gratuitous sex scenes.
The plot itself isn't a traditional monster hunt, more of a murder mystery and an attempt to not follow through on a warrant to kill a wereleopard, Bobby.
We get to meet new characters but also see some character thoughts on polygamy, Religion and more importantly the civil rights of supernaturals plus prejudices they face, which feels timely, to be polite. Anita is also still a hard killer but balanced and encouraging therapy here, besides which, there's a very important and revealing story on PTSD.
Olaf is along for the ride and there are some I interesting developments there, as well as an ending which was incredibly emotional and I think Hamilton has tapped into some serious emotions in this one.
I really like this development and want to see the Olaf angle and the next stage in Anita's life written about, and the wedding !
Sucker Punch seemed for The first two-thirds to pick up the grit and strength of her older books. I was drawn in, then it seemed to slide. The sociopathic Olaf reappeared. Wanting to date Anita, this led to about 100 pages of discussion on her relationship with her court, what would be classed as acceptable behaviour between them. Naturally she has no intention of doing the horizontal mambo with him but this went on so that the climax of the book (no pun intended) happened so fast i was taken by surprise.
Don't misunderstand, I love Laurells books but part of me wondered if she had gotten a degree in psychology. Enjoy the book, I did, just be prepared for the in depth psychology.
And I thought Anita was smarter than this! Really not a mystery who done it!
I did enjoy glimpses of what's going on with the wedding but not enough to say this was a good book. Oh well. Maybe she's setting it up for the next one?
Well, we'll see won't we? At least the pandemic should have passed by then...
I really cannot wait for the wedding beween Anita and Jean claude, I hope that Laurell is not going to spin it out for another 5-6 books before it does take place. I also hope that Jean Claude and Richard are given more prominence in future books instead of Mica and Nathaniel who seem to have taken over as the 2 main male characters instead of Richard and Jean Claude..