Stuff We Love: Anne Rice's scariest book has nothing to do with vampires

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Jun 6, 2017, 1:52 PM EDT (Updated)

Just mention Anne Rice and the first thing anyone will think of is vampires. Or Interview With the Vampire. Or Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise as Louis and Lestat in Interview With the Vampire before they became tabloid bait.

Let me tell you something. Vampires have nothing on these witches.

When you have a family demon, you know you’re powerful. When said family demon hypnotizes your entire bloodline into unspeakable acts that involve murder, madness, black voodoo, locked doors that stay locked for a reason and things in jars that really shouldn’t be there in the first place, you know you’re possessed.

Sorceress Susanna Mayfair calls forth a dark entity in the wilds of Scotland, but what the witch isn’t aware of is that this demon has ulterior motives. His mysterious ends always justify the means he uses to reach them. From then on “Lasher" materializes everywhere the Mayfairs find themselves, from the dusky plantations of Santo Domingo to the cavernous Garden District mansion that soon becomes a deceptively beautiful crime scene. Behind the exotic blooms and ornate flourishes are infinite crime scenes—beds that witnessed unholy acts, brain-splattered flagstones, the pool where a bloated body was discovered, a dance floor scattered with corpses, and an attic hiding gruesome secrets in its cobwebs.

Anne Rice in the New Orleans mansion that inspired The Witching Hour.


While the preternatural glitter of a vampire’s eyes in a back alley may be startling for that moment until you dare turn the page, the most horrifying details of The Witching Hour torment you slowly as more and more fragments of the past are dusted off. You may have a suspicion of what the stain on the mattress in that upstairs bedroom is but will deny it until its backstory festers to the point you can no longer control what your mind’s eye is exposed to. You may have a creeping feeling that the apparition of Lasher in the garden had something to do with the delicate psyche of Deirdre Mayfair, until the truth savagely blossoms like a carnivorous flower flourishing in this hot-blooded New Orleans tangle of decadence and death.

Turn all the lights on and indulge in what might be Anne Rice’s most underrated novel in the shadow of The Vampire Chronicles. You will probably be led down the dark and winding path of the entire Mayfair trilogy, though this novel could stand alone in its eerie majesty. Just be careful to never fall under the spell of Uncle Julien and his Victrola.