Flirt- the 18th installment in the Anita Blake series- is nothing to write home about. It was also nothing much to read.
The story almost feels like a stand alone. Granted, there are references and sub-texts from past stories to draw upon, but none really impacted the story. Which would have been hard to do, given what story there was. This novel/novella/novelette contains quite a bit of padding before and after which is interesting- not so much what it is as to why it's there.
A rich man wants Anita to resurrect his dead wife. She refuses on 'ethical grounds'(funny!) as it seems the man wants to resume their marriage, which she tries to explain is impossible. He leaves unsatisfied, and Anita and a few boytoys- Nathaniel, Jason and Micah- head off to lunch together. Lunch is all about the science and skill of flirting: touching, eye contact, double entendres, flattery... To emphasize this, the waiter that comes to take their orders is completely flustered by the mere presence of Nathaniel; Anita rises to the challenge and makes her own lasting impression upon him. Back at Animators Inc. a wealthy woman wants Anita to resurrect her dead husband so she can exact a terrible vengeance upon him; Anita refuses this time on 'moral grounds'- which is again, comical, given Anita's behavior. Anita returns to the same restaurant for another lunch, where the same waiter approaches her, hoping for more than flirting. During the encounter Anita senses another shapeshifter- a were-lion- and the lioness in her responds eagerly, despite the danger. Another lion- Nick- joins them, boxing her into their trap, and they threaten mayhem if she doesn't comply. They bring her to one of the former spurned clients, who won't take no for an answer.
** END SPOILERS**
The title FLIRT should be taken literally, as that's the focus of the novel. Every Anita encounter with the were-lions- which take up the bulk of the story- is about the male/female ritual and establishing one's dominance, as well as the constant references to the deceased blond wife as a 'furry' and the many beautiful men in Anita's life. It's also expanded upon in the Afterword, where LKH pontificates for thirteen pages about her writing process. Here you get a blow by blow description of a real-life encounter with a waiter that inspired the novel, which is repeated almost verbatim in the lunch scene. Hamilton states that her work on Divine Misdemeanors was hindered by the overwhelming, looming presence of this story idea in her head. And in case you still don't get it, you're treated to a five-page cartoon strip done by Jennie Breeden, author of 'Devil's Panties' online comics spoofing the seminal moment. Combined with three pages of dedications and an intro focused upon said waiter encounter... that's twenty pages of clutter wrapped around some light reading.
Though it's been remarked before, here you really can see where Hamilton is both recycling old plots and how unconcerned she is with maintaining continuity. The climatic scene takes place in a graveyard, an almost blow by blow rehash of the finale in Laughing Corpse- where she took down Dominga Salvador and the others. Prior to this Anita notes with some surprise how much added power sacrificing a were adds to her necromancy... except that she's been aware of this for some time now. Toss in all the tired, boring, endless inane drivel about how ugly Anita thinks she is because she's not blond/skinny/pale and all the boyz constantly reassuring her that she's the sexiest woman alive, you really gotta wonder why you're even bothering with this one. The only new development in the story is that Anita adds yet another male to the harem- and what's so new about that?
Flirt adds practically nothing to the Anita Blake canon and ultimately comes across as a cheap money grab or something to fulfill contractual obligations with. But just because Hamilton had to put it out doesn't mean you have to buy it.