DEATH’S EXCELLENT VACATION edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner [Review]

Death’s Excellent Vacation is a collection of thirteen short stories featuring paranormals on vacation. Harris contributed an original Sookie Stackhouse story, Katie MacAlister has a story featuring Aisling Grey’s demon Jim, and there’s a Night Huntress story from Jeaniene Frost that has Cat and Bones babysitting a bratty heiress. The ten other original paranormal tales are from Lilith Saintcrow, Jeff Abbott, Toni L. P. Kelner, and others.

For me, the main draw was “Two Blondes,” a Sookie Stackhouse short story that had Eric sending Sookie and Pam on an errand in Mississippi. Oh, and there’s a stripper pole involved. I love the idea of Pam and Sookie on a road trip together, bonding and doing vampire business. Even if Pam isn’t the biggest fan of humans, she does like Sookie (“You’re not as intolerable as most”), and the two women get A LOT more familiar with each other in this story. It’s a fun little story, and I think fans will enjoy it.

I didn’t love the rest of the stories as much as “Two Blondes,” but there really isn’t a bad one in the bunch. A few of my favorites:

“The Innsmouth Nook” by A. Lee Martinez – Philip and Vance run a bed-and-breakfast in the weird town of Clam Bay. This story has a clever twist I didn’t see coming.

“Safe and Sound” by Jeff Abbott – Cable news reporter Nora Dare features missing college student Jason Kirk on her show night after night because the young man’s disappearance is ratings gold (think Nancy Grace). I loved the premise of this story–it actually would make a great novel.

“The Demon in the Dunes” by Chris Grabenstein – A man tells the story of his encounter with a ghost while on a family vacation on the Jersey shore in 1975. This had lots of fun 70s references and a really surprising ending.

As someone who has never been a huge fan of short stories, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Death’s Excellent Vacation. I’ve realized that anthologies like this are a great way to discover new authors, and I definitely found a few that I want to check out.

Full list of stories in Death’s Excellent Vacation:
“Two Blondes” by Charlaine Harris
“The Boys Go Fishing” by Sarah Smith
“Once For the Money” by Jeaniene Frost
“Meanwhile, Far Across the Caspian Sea…” by Daniel Stashower
“The Innsmouth Nook” by A. Lee Martinez
“Safe and Sound” by Jeff Abbott
“Seeing is Believing” by L. A. Banks
“The Perils of Efrijim” by Katie MacAlister
“Thin Walls” by Christopher Golden
“The Heart is Always Right” by Lilith Saintcrow
“The Demon in the Dunes” by Chris Grabenstein
“Home From America” by Sharan Newman
“Pirate Dave’s Haunted Amusement Park” by Toni L. P. Kelner

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Ace Hardcover | Pages: 352 | Source: Library | Buy on Amazon

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