A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Burnt Offerings’ chapter one

My book cover is just glaring at me. The British publisher put no effort into the covers for this series. It’s just a woman glaring at me with a burning cross in the background. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this cover is lazy as shit and would not get me interested enough to read this.

Could be worse. I could have this cover.

Yeah, people are going to think ‘supernatural thriller’ when they see this, not ‘dodgy 70s erotica’.

So, what should I expect but not get this time?

‘You can’t trust anyone who sleeps with the monsters.’

That’s what I’ve always said. That’s what I’ve always believed. But now I’m the one sharing a bed with the Master Vampire of the City. Me, Anita Blake. The woman the vampires call The Executioner. From part of the solution, I’ve become part of the problem.

So it hits close to home when an arsonist begins to target vampire-owned businesses all over town – an arsonist who seems to want to destroy more than just property. It’s the monsters who are in danger now. And it’s up to the Executioner to save them from the inferno…

Spoilers: JC doesn’t die.

I mean, I haven’t read it, but any character that Anita likes or is close to is not allowed to die. LKH has said so herself, after the death of Philip was too traumatic to deal with. I guess she’s the expert in building tension by allowing all her fans to know their favourite characters are guaranteed to not be harmed.

Oh god

the book starts with talking about Anita’s scars

Scars do not make you badass, Anita. I have a lot of scars. Most of them are reminders of me doing something incredibly stupid. I have a big red one on my hand when I picked up a crab when I was ten. I don’t boast about it and wave it in people’s faces to show how much I can deal with pain. (I flash my tat to do that)

Most people don’t stare at the scars. They’ll look, of course, then do the eye slide. You know, the quick look, then drop the gaze, then just have to have that second look. But they make it quick. The wounds aren’t like freak show bad, but they are interesting.

hey look ableism is rearing it’s ugly head early in this book. ‘Freak show bad’. NO. NO. NO. BAD PHRASE.

Anita is meeting an arson investigator in her office, Pete McKinnon, who is staring at her. She reassures us that it’s not sexual. As she always does.

My right arm had been sliced open twice by a knife. One scar was white and old. The second was still pink and new. My left arm was worse. A mound of white scar tissue sat at the bend of my arm. I’d have to lift weights for the rest of my life or the scars would stiffen and I’d lose mobility in the arm, or so my physical therapist had said. There was a cross-shaped burn mark, a little crooked now because of the ragged claw marks that a shapeshifted witch had given me. There were one or two other scars hidden under my blouse, but the arm really is the worst.

I had to suffer through it, so all of you must do so too.

Anita then goes on about how Bert thinks it’s all so unprofessional to show them, so he’s been sabotaging the air conditioner in Anita’s office to make her wear a jacket. She’s considering wearing a tanktop because both of them are silly. Bert should have a clothing policy that he makes his employees sign, Anita should grow up and be an adult.

Unusually, McKinnon is not in Anita’s office of his own volition. She has sought him out, presumably about the arson attacks advertised on the blurb. He asks her about the scars straight out, and he is covered in ones of his own – burn scars. Anita says that he looks very old and tired. She then shows him more scars.

Each time Anita shows her scars off, everyone should take a drink.

“Now that we’ve proven we’re big tough he-men, can you just cut to the chase? Why are you here, Captain McKinnon?”

…. what? You just said Dolph recommended him to you. That implies you went to him. LKH, you have to be more careful with how you word things. McKinnon then smiles and says how Anita doesn’t like being sized up, because that’s how a fire investigator talks. That’s how any professional goes around talking to people they work with.

Anyway, it seems that McKinnon is here to talk about ‘firebugs’, those who are pyrokinetic and can ‘call’ fire psychically. I’d have said ‘create’ as you can’t really call a chemical reaction, but whatever. It’s unusually interesting worldbuilding for this series, so I’ll take it happily.

McKinnon talks about firebugs for a long time. A loooooooong time. Firebugs are rare and… there’s not much else said, apart from a case of McKinnon’s where there was a young male firebug who killed sixty people. He burnt McKinnon and gave him the scars. McKinnon thinks another one is running around the place and wants Anita to help him.

How on earth will she be able to help?

She has no fire training. She has no jurisdiction to hunt down a psychic – she’s a VAMPIRE executioner, not a ‘human being with special powers executioner’. She has no investigative abilities. She is as useful as a chocolate teapot.

McKinnon gives her a fire of property damage cases and says that it’s something that can ‘shed fire like sprinkling water’ and walk through burning buildings. Anita says that she’ll help in any way she can.

I nodded and stood. I offered my hand. He shook it. His grip was firm, solid, but not too tight. A lot of male clients that wanted to know about the scars squeezed my hand like they wanted me to cry “uncle”. But McKinnon was secure. He had his own scars.


are you saying that your male clients want to think that you were abused, and that makes them secure in their own insecurities?


So, McKinnon has gone, and Lawrence Kirkland walks his way back into the AB world. Goodie. He needs a ride home, as he is apparently unable to pick up the phone and get a taxi. Apparently, he picks up the phone and smacks himself in the forehead with it instead. He needs picking up, and he’ll explain when she gets there.

Anita drops all her appointments and rushes out to help him.

She’s a professional, y’all.

16 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Burnt Offerings’ chapter one

  1. She is supposed to kill vampires. Surely the scars mean that she was incompetent enough to let a vampire get close enough to maul her. Knives, claw marks, burn scars, a vampire chewing on her – none of this says ‘badass’ to me, it says ‘I can’t keep myself safe and have survived through fluke and having more competent friends’.

    Also, I don’t remember hearing about ‘the scarred lady’ ever being a freak show act, so I don’t know where LKH even pulled that phrase from. It just seems like a really odd thing to say.

  2. I miss the old covers. I mean, my copy of Burnt Offerings looks like this: http://img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n1/n5283.jpg

    I see what you mean about the UK cover: http://img.dooyoo.co.uk/GB_EN/orig/0/7/7/7/1/777149.jpg wow.

    This one sucks too: http://webspace.webring.com/people/sa/anitascloset/BOOK7UK.jpg

    Honestly, I think the best covers are in this style: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_jIOeJAQ2Ycw/S3BD0cBy0RI/AAAAAAAAC-g/XQwy8Wzg6Rw/s200/Burnt+Offerings.jpg They generally show something that makes sense, instead of the weird softcore pornish crap the newer editions are coming out with in the US.

    • The British covers are all like that, until The Harlequin when the books went to a different publisher – I think, as around then LKH went to the UK to talk to publishers or something.

      That first cover looks like something is about to eat the entire city.

      I actually like those covers. Before I started reading Anita Blake, I saw the later books with those sort of covers and thought the books looked good. They stood out from the generic ‘black background with red synbolic object’ fashion craze amongst supernatural fiction. Little did I know..

  3. To ‘cry Uncle’ is a term for tapping out. Basically she’s saying that when men see her scars, they need to prove that they’re manly enough by squeezing her hand until she says it hurts.
    Still stupid, but for once it’s not a sex thing.

  4. Maybe she doesn’t have any appointments? Bert knows how awful she is with customers, so he avoids allowing her to interact with them whenever possible. Lets face it, when you’re grieving and want to see your dead wife one last time, the last thing you need is Anita in your face, wearing a tank top and a miniskirt, being incredibly unprofessional. Given that as far as most customers know, she’s only an animator, the scars probably look like she routinely loses control of her zombies and they try to eat her.

      • Oh great…and they most likely had to pay just to see her and Anita will most likely try to charge them more somehow if they do come back for another appointment 😉 Or whoever charges for people just to see her.

      • It must be so annoying to be a client of Anita’s – she’s constantly brushing you off to solve murders and vampire problems when all you want is to talk to your husband or your mother for the last time, and you’ve paid through the nose for the privilege.

    • We’re seven books in, and Anita still somehow hasn’t been fired, I think my theory that she’s threatening/blackmailing her boss has been confirmed. And even then, he’ll only put up with so much of her crap.

  5. Anita the slutty skank (Or skanky slut, take yer pick) screws several severely stupid slobs. Silly sex shenanigans ensue. Smith suffers and snarks about shit book series. You’d think miss Hamilton would change up the formula after seven books.

  6. I personally like the idea this is a world where supernatural abilities are ill-understood and the law is struggling to catch up. Anita is an expert on some things, so she gets called for expertise on everything.

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