Animator, necromancer, called by vampires everywhere "The Executioner," Anita Blake is a feisty, independent, 21st century lady who can't seem to get a date with a human being. In "Lunatic Cafe," Book 5 of Laurell K. Hamilton's winning mystery-suspense-thriller-romance series, Anita is in love with Richard Zeeman, a kind, outdoorsy, handsome science teacher who just happens to be a werewolf - an Alpha Male. Anita thinks she can deal with his "condition" enough to consider marriage. Then she starts to see another side of Richard - one he has tried to keep suppressed. Lycanthropy just happens to be the principal theme of this novel, so the couple's problem is topical. The charismatic Jean-Claude, vampire extraordinaire, and Master of the City of St. Louis, finds it hilarious that Anita doesn't think Richard is "human enough" for her. Jean-Claude is wildly attracted to Anita, and also lusts to share her powers, but she looks down on his advances because he is a vampire - and the Head Vampire, at that. One thing to remember about Anita - she does not want to be controlled EVER!!
Employed by Animators, Inc., to raise the dead, Anita's sideline is slaying vampires - the ones who murder humans. She collaborates with the police's Regional Preternatural Investigation Team when hunting the criminal undead. A call from her counterpart, Sergeant Rudolph Storr, informs her that a badly mutilated body has shown up in the hinterlands of St. Louis. A crime appears to have been committed, perhaps by a werewolf given the nature of the wounds. Anita is convinced that a supernatural creature is the killer...but what kind of creature? "If there were no prints, could it have flown in? A Gargoyle maybe? It was the only large winged predator that attacked men. Except for dragons, but they weren't native to the country, and it would have been a hell of a lot messier. Or a lot neater. A dragon would simply have swallowed the man whole. Gargoyles will attack and kill a man, but it's rare. Besides, the nearest pack was in Kelly, Kentucky. What else could it be? There were a few lesser eastern trolls in the Ozarks, but not this close to St. Louis." In any event, whatever killed the human, the local sheriff and cohorts are determined to hinder Anita from discovering the truth.
Meanwhile, Anita's greedy boss Bert, always out to make a buck, passes a missing person's case to her. Several members of Richard's "lunarly disadvantaged" pack have disappeared. Richard is entangled in a fight over the leadership of the pack with fellow werewolf, and present leader, Marcus. And Jean-Claude is growing increasingly hostile about what he perceives to be a lovers' triangle. Rage, vindictiveness and jealousy, anyone? Anita may have removed Jean-Claude from the picture permanently, but according to Jean-Claude's ego, he is way ahead of all the competition.
As if this isn't enough to fill a book, a sub-plot concerning snuff/porn films involving lycanthropes and humans is revealed. The films and murders lead Edward, called "Death" by the vampires, to join the case, to the chagrin of Anita and the undead.
Dominance is a major issue in "The Lunatic Cafe." Aside from Richard vying for "leader of the pack" status with the unlovable Marcus, and Jean-Claude constantly asserting himself as Master Vamp of St. Louis, Anita has to constantly prove that she can take on all comers and still survive. And she is challenged all the time....and gets beat up badly, frequently, but does prevail.
Laurell Hamilton is at her best in "The Lunatic Cafe." She is an excellent writer who, with much flair and pizzazz, mixes fantasy with mystery, romance and dark humor. Her take on this derivative genre is a most unusual one. The mystery is at the fore of her novels, the supernatural takes second place, almost taken for granted as part of Anita Blake's natural world. And Ms. Blake is a delight - witty, savvy, and a major cynic with a tender heart. This gal has attitude with a capital "A." I highly recommend this series. A warning, however - to really enjoy these novels, and the characters' development, the books should be read in order. (at least the 1st four).