The Lunatic Cafe (novel)

The Lunatic Cafe (novel)

infobox Book |
name = The Lunatic Cafe
orig title =
translator =

image_caption = 1996 cover
author = Laurell K. Hamilton
cover_artist = Lee MacLeod (Ace edition)
country = United States
language = English
series = Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter
genre = mystery, Horror novel
publisher = Ace Books (Ace edition)
release_date = 1996 (Ace edition)
media_type = Print (Paperback)
pages = 369 pp (Ace edition)
isbn = ISBN 0-441-00293-5 (Ace edition)
preceded_by = Circus of the Damned
followed_by = Bloody Bones
"The Lunatic Cafe" is the fourth in the series of horror/mystery novels by Laurell K. Hamilton.

Plot introduction

"The Lunatic Cafe" continues the adventures of Anita Blake. Anita attempts to solve a series of shapeshifters disappearances while exploring her relationship with Richard Zeeman, her werewolf boyfriend, and avoiding the advances of Jean-Claude, a vampire would-be paramour. As with its predecessors, "The Lunatic Cafe" blends elements of supernatural, hardboiled and police procedural fiction.

Explanation of the title

Within the novel, the "Lunatic Cafe" is the name of a restaurant that is operated by and serves as a base for St. Louis area shapeshifters. Hamilton continued the practice of naming the novels after a fictional location within each novel for most of the Anita Blake series.

Plot summary

"The Lunatic Cafe" occurs shortly after the events of "Circus of the Damned". (That novel ended on Halloween, and the events of "The Lunatic Cafe" take place before Christmas of that same year.)

Similar to the previous novels, "The Lunatic Cafe" opens with Anita interviewing a potential client. George Smitz tells Anita that his wife, , has disappeared. Anita explains that she is not trained as an investigator, and suggests that George contact the police, but he will not. Peggy is a werewolf, and George is afraid to contact the police because she owns and operates a butcher shop, and if her condition were made public, she would lose her customers. Anita ultimately refers George to , who agrees to look into it.

That night, Anita meets Richard Zeeman for a date at a performance of "Guys and Dolls". Anita is charmed that Richard likes musicals, but offput when she notices him watching theater patrons as if the were prey. Anita's discomfort with Richard's werewolf status increases when Jean-Claude arrives and reveals, during the course of a confrontation with Richard, that Richard is an alpha werewolf involved in a lengthy and possibly deadly battle for control of the local werewolf pack. Anita is upset that Richard has been concealing information from her, but ultimately leaves to answer a page from . As usual, Dolph wants Anita to inspect a crime scene, and Anita leaves. As Anita travels to her car, she is confronted by , an older, but not yet master, vampire in love with Jean-Claude. Gretchen demands that Anita surrender her claim to Jean-Claude and refuses to believe that Anita wishes to be rid of his interest. Jean-Claude then arrives and confronts Gretchen in a rage. After the two vampires fly off, Anita drives to the crime scene, located in a rural nature center.

At the nature center, Anita is confronted by Deputy Aikensen, who tries to prevent her from investigating. She learns that there is a vigorous dispute between Aikensen's sheriff, Sheriff Titus, and Dolph over whether the person found was a victim of a bear attack or a possible crime. Titus and Aikensen argue that they have already identified the incident as a bear attack, and that no supernatural investigation is therefore necessary, while Dolph, and local police chief Chief Garroway want access to the crime scene. With the help of local caretaker and naturalist Sam Williams, Anita is able to convince Titus to grant her access to the scene. She determines that the attack was not a bear, and, after excluding the possibility of a flying attacker such as a gargoyle or dragon, deduces that the murder victim was killed by a shapeshifter who laid in wait on an overhead branch, then dropped onto his victim. She asks to have the claw prints and other clues sent to Washington University for inspection, knowing that will be likely to identify the species of shapeshifter.

When she arrives home, Anita finds waiting for her. Irving explains that Richard has been in a succession conflict with local pack leader . Richard has actually beaten Marcus in a fight, but was unwilling to kill him and therefore failed to gain control of the pack. Marcus ordered Irving to contact Anita and ask her to meet with him, but Richard ordered Irving not to. Trapped between conflicting demands from two dominant werewolves, Irving asks for Anita's protection, and Anita agrees to go with him to meet Marcus.

Irving leads Anita to "The Lunatic Cafe," a restaurant with a largely lycanthrope clientele. Anita meets and , two werewolves allied with Marcus, and is led into a back room, where she meets several more shapeshifters, including , , , , and . Although Marcus leads the largest group of shapeshifters in St. Louis, the non-wolf shifters dispute his authority.

Before Marcus can explain the problem, he and Anita argue over whether he is dominant to her that ends with Anita drawing a gun. Egged on by Gabriel and Raina, Marcus orders Alfred to take the gun away from her, forcing Anita to shoot and kill Alfred. The blood excites the lycanthopes, who begin to have trouble maintaining human appearances or behavior. Anita attempts to leave, but is grabbed by , a new werewolf who appears to be losing control of his humanity. Rafael saves Anita from the choice of whether to shoot Jason, distracting Jason with his own blood. Anita escapes, aided by Kaspar, who does not shift into a predator and is therefore not under any danger of losing control when exposed to blood. While the back room devolves into a lycanthrope feeding frenzy, Kaspar gives Anita a folder of information Marcus would otherwise have given her himself. On her way out of the cafe, Anita sees seated in the front room.

At home, Anita reviews the folder and learns that in addition to Peggy Smitz, seven other lycanthropes have disappeared recently. Anita contacts Edward to learn if he has had anything to do with the disappearances, and agrees to meet with him later. Unable to reveal the missing lycanthropes to the police, Anita discusses the disappearances with Ronnie, and they consider whether Peggy's disappearance might be part of a larger pattern.

Later, at work, Anita receives two potential clients. The first, Elvira Drew, explains that she is an author writing a book on shapeshifters and asks Anita to put her in touch with a wererat for a potential interview. Anita explains that most lycanthropes hide their identity to prevent discrimination, but promises to ask around. The second client is Kaspar, who has told that he is interested in raising an ancestor in an effort to lift a family curse. Once alone with Anita, Kaspar reveals that he has been sent by Marcus, who has asked Kaspar to apologize for the previous night and ask for Anita's help in solving the shapeshifter disappearance. Kaspar reveals that although he is in fact cursed to transform into a swan, he was personally cursed by a witch, centuries ago, and has walked the Earth ever since.

Anita arrives home and meets up with Richard for dinner. Richard has trouble accepting the ease with which Anita killed Alfred, his friend, and believes that Anita may be unwilling to have a relationship with him because he is a werewolf. Anita and Richard reconcile and Richard proposes marriage. Anita impulsively accepts.

Later, Anita meets Edward at his hotel room. Edward shows Anita a snuff film in which Alfred and a masked wereleopard have sex with a human woman in both human and animal forms. Near the end of the film, Alfred, then in a wolfman form, kills the woman. Edward explains that the woman's father has hired him to kill everyone involved with the movie, and Anita agrees to help him. Anita explains that she has already killed Alfred, and calls Richard to see if he can identify the wereleopard. Richard arrives and watches the movie. Although he is very upset by it, his inner "beast" is excited by both the sex and violence, and Anita's second thoughts about their engagement increase. Richard tells Anita that Raina does make pornographic films, but that he does not believe that she has made any snuff films. Richard agrees to speak to Marcus to see if he knows anything about the films.

The next evening, Anita meets with , who is able to identify the murder victim's wounds as having been caused by a lycanthrope. Anita asks Louis whether he knows any wererats who would be willing to participate in an interview with Elvira, and Louis offers to ask around. Louis and Anita discuss whether Anita is emotionally capable of having a relationship with a werewolf, and Anita leaves.

On her way out, Anita is confronted by , who threatens to kill her. Louis, in his ratman form, attacks Gretchen, but is outclassed and quickly beaten. Gretchen bites Louis and uses his body as a shield against Anita's gun, creating a stalemate. Ultimately, Anita resolves the conflict by telling Gretchen that she has become engaged to Richard. Gretchen agrees to leave, on the condition that Anita tell Jean-Claude about the engagement that night.

Suffering from an apparent concussion, Anita is able to drag the unconscious and injured Louis to her car and drive a few blocks, in order to prevent police from identifying him as a wererat. She calls Richard for help. He and arrive and take Louis and Anita to see , a wererat doctor.

After being checked out, Anita goes to see Jean-Claude. After a confrontation with , Anita and Gretchen go to see Jean-Claude. Jean-Claude is outraged that Anita has become engaged to Richard, but is able to sense both that Anita is having doubts about the engagement and that Anita also has feelings for him. He offers not to kill Richard if Anita agrees to date both Richard and Jean-Claude for at least a few months, and Anita reluctantly agrees. Jean-Claude then punishes Gretchen for attacking Anita, reducing her to a feeble skeleton and locking her in a coffin for an indefinite period.

Jean-Claude and Anita are then interrupted by , , and , who have forced their way past Robert to confront Jean-Claude. Gabriel attacks Anita, forcing her to stab him with a silver knife, but he forces the knife deeper, apparently out of a severe form of masochism. Anita also learns that Jean-Claude is still having difficulty maintaining control over the city, and is dependent on an alliance with Marcus, Raina, and the local werewolf pack. In order to maintain this alliance, Raina demands that Jean-Claude supply a vampire for her pornography operation, and Jean-Claude orders Robert to do so, both to mollify Raina and as punishment for allowing her to force her way in. As Anita leaves, Raina and Gabriel begin forcing Kaspar to demonstrate his shapeshift to Jean-Claude.

That night, a phone call from Dolph wakes Anita. Because she is still unable to drive, picks her up. Zerbrowski teases Anita about Richard and offers her relationship advice while he drives her to the scene, a giant snakeskin hooked on a river rock near the scene of the earlier murder. Anita and Deputy Aikensen enter the river to inspect the skin, and are surprised to find a skinned human body, still alive, in the river. Anita concludes that the victim was a naga, an immortal creature able to assume human or snake forms, and the naga is taken to the hospital for treatment.

Anita arrives home to find both Richard and Jean-Claude waiting for her. The men are close to blows over Richard's presence in her apartment and Jean-Claude's insistence that Anita date him as well as Richard. When Anita tries to separate them, she feels their magical energy combine in her, creating a great deal of magical power. She is threatened by the reaction, but Jean-Claude and Richard, each of whom are involved in power struggles, are intrigued by the possibilities. Ultimately, Anita asks Richard to leave and revokes her invitation to Jean-Claude, forcing him from her apartment.

The next day, Anita gets a call from , who tells Anita that she has found evidence that George Smitz is having an affair. Anita and Ronnie consider whether George may have killed his wife and the other missing shapeshifters. Shortly later, Richard calls, and tells Anita that is missing. Anita asks Richard to get her backup for a confrontation with George. Richard is unable to accompany her personally and sends Raina and Gabriel, and Ronnie, Anita, and the weres drive out to speak to George.

On the drive, Anita recognizes Gabriel's eyes as those of the masked participant in the snuff video. When they arrive, Anita and Ronnie confront George but are unsuccessful in making him confess. Raina intervenes and intimidates him into admitting that he killed Peggy in order to inherit her butcher's shop. (Presumably, he hired Anita in order to provide some alibi if the police realized that Peggy was missing). However, George insists that he does not know anything about the remaining shapeshifter disappearances. George agrees to confess to the police in order to avoid being eaten by Raina and the pack.

Anita then goes to the hospital and questions the naga with Dolph. The naga is not fully coherent, but is able to tell them that he was attacked by witches, and that one of them had eyes the color of an ocean. Anita realizes that Elvira Drew must be hunting shapeshifters. She contacts her office and learns that Bert had put Elvira in contact with , who is now also missing.

Anita, Dolph, Zerbrowski, and several officers go to Elvira's house, but Elvira will not let them in. Anita breaks into the back porch and basement and is confronted by Elvira, but screams for help, allowing the police to enter. At that point, the police are attacked by two other witches, each of whom has used the skin of one of the missing lycanthropes to shapeshift. During the fight, Zerbrowski is gutted and is taken to the hospital. All of the witches but Elvira are killed. The police find Louie in the house and agree to attempt to preserve his secret, but do not find Jason. Anita realizes that the witches were responsible for some of the shapeshifter disappearances, but that there are still some unaccounted for disappearances, including Jason. Later, Anita gets a call from Sam Williams, the caretaker of the nature preserve where the murder victim was found. Williams has been listening to his tapes of nighttime wildlife and heard the call of a hyena. He and Anita deduce that there must have been a werehyena in the park, but before they can finish the call, Williams explains that police officers are at the door. Anita tries to tell him not to open the door, but he does and is attacked. Anita races to the nature preserve, accompanied by Richard and Edward for backup. They find Williams shot dead, together with two of the local police who were present at the original crime scene. Anita gets a page from Kaspar, who asks her to come to his house.

When Anita, Richard and Edward arrive at Kaspar's house, they are captured by Titus, Aikensen, and three hunters. Anita learns that Kaspar was once a European prince and hunter who was cursed to transform into a swan in order to learn kindness. However, Kaspar just became more and more resentful at being cursed to transform into prey, and formed a scheme with Titus to capture shapeshifters and offer them for expensive and illegal hunts. The initial murder victim had been a hunter whose hunt had gone wrong, and Titus and Aikensen had tried to cover up the crime. However, Titus realizes that the other police now know too much, and he and Aikensen plan to flee after one last hunt. They lock Edward and Richard in one cage, and Anita in a second cage, together with Jason, reasoning that with the approaching full moon, Jason will not be able to resist transforming into a wolf and eating Anita, at which point they will be able to hunt him.

Initially, Richard is able to restrain Jason as a dominant alpha werewolf. At that point, the hunters cut open one of Anita's wounds, anticipating that the blood will force Jason to lose control. As they do so, Anita is able to get hold of one of the hunters' guns and shoots him. In the confusion, Edward and Richard are able to grab and kill a second hunter, and Edward uses the hunter's rifle to kill Titus and the third hunter. Anita stabs Aikensen, and she and Edward leave, allowing Richard to take the now transformed Jason out to hunt, just as the police begin to arrive. The police accept Anita and Edward's story, as well as Edward's identification and claimed identity. In the epilogue, Anita explains that she is continuing to date Richard and Jean-Claude and has exchanged Christmas presents with each of them. Raina and Gabriel have claimed that they had no idea Alfred was planning to kill the woman in the snuff film, and Anita has accepted their explanation for now. A few months after the events of the main novel, Edward sent Anita a swan skin with a note, explaining that Marcus had hired him to kill Kaspar, and that Edward had eventually tracked down the fugitive and hired a witch to lift his curse, allowing Edward to kill him. Anita has the skin framed and mounted on her wall, to Richard's displeasure.

Characters in "The Lunatic Cafe"

Major characters

"The Lunatic Cafe" features the following major characters.
* Anita Blake: In this novel, Anita takes on a job that involves primarily protecting supernatural beings from humans. She also agrees, at least tentatively, to date Jean-Claude, further marking her acceptance of the supernatural. At the same time, even though she becomes engaged to Richard, severe cracks begin to appear in their relationship.
* Jean-Claude: Jean-Claude continues to show his ruthless and manipulative nature in this novel, as he punishes his underlings quite severely and forces Anita to date him based on a threat to Richard's life. In this novel, even though he functions primarily as an obstacle to Anita's relationship with Richard, Anita is forced to admit that she is attracted to him.
* Richard Zeeman: This novel begins to introduce the problems that have plagued Richard and Anita thereafter -- Anita's discomfort with Richard's lycanthropy, Richard's discomfort with her ruthlessness, Richard's insecurity about his own nature, and their mutual competition for dominance in their relationship and in the pack.

Other characters

* "The Lunatic Cafe" featured reappearances from Anita's coworkers, , and , police officers , , and and recurring characters , , , and .

* The novel introduced recurring characters , , , , , and .

* Non-recurring characters include: Chief Garroway, a non-dominant werewolf named "Polly" who Anita intimidates, and various supporting characters.

* The death toll in "The Lunatic Cafe" includes: an unnamed hunter killed by his lycanthrope prey in a hunt gone wrong; , killed by her husband George, seven unnamed shapeshifters, killed either by the shapeshifting witches or by hunters; an unnamed woman killed by in a snuff film; Alfred, shot by Anita; Sam Williams, and two of Garroway's deputies (Holmes and Lind) presumably killed by Aikensen as part of the hunting coverup; Sheriff Titus and two hunters (Carmichael and an unnamed hunter) killed by Edward during the final confrontation; Deputy Aikensen and one hunter (Feinstein), killed by Anita during the final confrontation; and , killed by Edward after the main events of the novel.

Major themes

* "The Lunatic Cafe" is notable in that it alters the structure of the previous three novels. In each of the original three , Anita initially encounters (1) a client or other situation related to her job as an animator; (2) a crime scene related to her job as police consultant; and (3) some dramatic tension relating to her connections to the St. Louis supernatural world, particularly Jean-Claude. Ultimately in the first three novels, each of the situations turns out to be related to a single criminal scheme, which Anita confronts and defeats. In "The Lunatic Cafe", this pattern is altered -- although Anita encounters the usual early events: (1) a request from George Smitz to investigate his wife's disappearance; (2) a person murdered by a shapeshifter; and (3) a demand by Marcus that Anita solve a series of shapeshifter disappearances, the events do not turn out to be related. Instead, although Anita believes that they are related, the disappearances and murders turn out to be the result of three unrelated criminal schemes.
* Anita's habit of protecting the weak comes strongly into play in "The Lunatic Cafe", as she extends protection to Irving Griswold and also acts to protect Louie and Robert. This pattern, together with her inability to back down from confrontation, draws her deeper and deeper into St. Louis's supernatural society, often against her will.
* "The Lunatic Cafe" is notable as one of the few Anita Blake novels that does not involve Anita's powers as a necromancer. Other than sensing mystical energy, Anita does not use her supernatural abilities in this book.

Release details

* 1996, New York, Ace Books (Penguin Putnam), ISBN 0-441-00293-5, Paperback
* 2000, London, Orbit, ISBN 1-84149-049-0
* 2002, New York, Jove Books (Penguin Putnam), ISBN 0-515-13452-X
* 2003, New York, Penguin, eBook ISBN 0-7865-4577-1, eBook
* 2005, New York, Berkeley (Penguin Putnam), ISBN 0-425-20137-6

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