"Guilty Pleasures" is the first Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel by Laurell K. Hamilton, but when you read it you will wish that it was not. What I mean by that convoluted sentence is that Anita is well into her career as an Animator when this book opens and the more you find out about her backstory the more you want to learn. One of the most important things in this story is when the master vampire Jean-Claude puts the first two marks upon Anita, which links them psychically and makes her somewhat immune to the mental powers of the vampires. Obviously this will have long term repercussions in the series, but it is not as momentous a change since this is the first novel in the series; when it happens Anita has talked about killing vampires, but we have yet to see her ply her trade. If there had been a prequel to this story, in which Anita earned her reputation as "The Executioner" and we learned the rules of the game in terms of vampires and this brave new world they inhabit, then her transformation in "Guilty Pleasures" would have the weight it deserves. Similarly, the idea that the thousand-year-old Master Vampire of St. Louis wants to hire Anita to solve the sudden rash of vampire murders also has less impact than it would if this story was told further down the line. Hamilton comes up with some excellent ideas in this novel, but you can imagine how much more of an impact they would have if this was the third or fourth Anita Blake novel instead of the first. However, Hamilton gets high marks for giving us the feel that we have stepped into an ongoing story, always a laudable goal. You have to be quite optimistic about her ability to up the ante as the series continues. The world of Anita Blake is one in which the Supreme Court has granted the undead equal rights, so that you cannot kill a vampire without a warrant and you can just imagine the legal morass involving zombies, ghouls and were-beasts. Hamilton has created a world in which the undead are still creatures of the night but have become a part of society, which runs the spectrum from vampire strip clubs such as the Guilty Pleasures of the title to the Church of Eternal Life where becoming a vampire can help you achieve that particular goal. This is a thoughtful look at the "realities" of such a world and although you will recognize elements from Stoker and Rice in this world, Hamilton has constructed one that stands on its own. As for our heroine, she is also extremely realistic: Anita Blake has horrible scars on her body from her battles against the undead, her dreams are tormented by what she has seen and done, she is terrified by her current situation and does not know who she can trust or turn to for help. The fact that she feels fear, cries, gets sick to her stomach, add to her heroism because despite all these obstacles, she gets the job done. There is a much harder edge here than what you find with other vampire slayers. Anita Blake is not a two-dimension character, which is why once you read "Guilty Pleasures" you have to move on to the next novel in the series. All in all, this is an excellent start.