Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Sookie Stackhouse Novels: Dead Until Dark - BookReview

"Of course I am grateful, and I'm sure you are, as you put it, a special vintage," Bill said politely, "But I have my own wine cellar."

Charlaine Harris is a New York Times bestselling author

How do you live with the knowledge that you are different, able to hear the thoughts of those around you, sense their feelings and understand their pain and worries? Sookie Stackhouse works as a waitress at Merlotte's Bar and Grill in Bon Temps, a small town in northern Louisiana. And she is a telepath.

Told in first person by Sookie, we, the readers, are engaged in a murder mystery; there is also the story of self-discovery and the yearning for something more, adventure for our heroine. And in walks Bill Compton, a Civil War veteran and vampire who she immediately likes - with the added attraction that his mind is closed to her, allowing her to bask in his mental silence, he is the perfect companion. But danger lies ahead...

There is a series of murders, local girls who are known to Vampires and, of course, Bill is a suspect. However, there is another suspect, Sookie's brother Jason. As the story develops we learn that life in Bon Temps is no longer straight-forward. Not everyone is who they appear to be.

Though vampires have "come out of the coffin" to be accepted by society, there is still suspicion and dislike for those afflicted with the "virus", the explanation given for their symptoms and physical difference. There is also the introduction of synthetic blood, True Blood (developed by the Japanese), making it unnecessary for vampires to feed on humans for sustenance and allowing them to live in peaceful coexistence. But there are those humans, Fangbangers (vampire groupies), who offer their blood willingly, even during sex with vampires. Each of the girls murdered are such fanatics, if you can call them that.

"Life had sure been simpler when I hadn't dated."
― Sookie Stackhouse

From the start, and this is where Sookie really emerges as a true heroine, we are introduced to "drainers", people who take vampire blood by force, binding vampires with silver chains and draining the blood into vials to sell as a drug on the underground market - such blood is highly addictive and has various properties, including healing.

In an attempt to unmask the serial killer in Bon Temps, Sookie persuades Bill to escort her to a bar, Fangtasia, where she meets Eric Northman, owner and a powerful vampire. After discovering her "gift", a deal is made between Eric and Bill, and the young waitress is invited to discover the identity of a thief who has been stealing from the business.

Meanwhile, there is another murder, one which turns Sookie's world upside down.

This gruesome discovery leads to the introduction of Bubba, a dim-witted vampire who, in life, had been quite famous indeed. This, for me, is the only disappointment in a story packed with mystery, romance and danger. Maybe this character will grow on me. Who knows...

Certainly one of the highlights in this novel, and a theme that will follow in further books, is the "Vampires are not the only beings..." surprise, with the inclusion of other fantastic creatures within the The Sookie Stackhouse Universe. This allows for author Charlaine Harris to really explore without restriction, using ingredients from mythology and folklore to create the perfect recipe for a book series that, by May 2012, would be twelve titles strong with the release of Deadlocked. The thirteenth, and final, novel in the series, Dead Ever After, will hit book stores in 2013 - a bonus, considering the author was originally only ever contracted to write ten Sookie Stackhouse novels.

Review summary

Purchased upon recommendation, I am so glad that Sookie has come into my life. This series is definitely up there with Rachel Caine's The Morganville Vampires. A joy to read, already looking forward to Book 2: Living Dead in Dallas.

Dead Until Dark publication date: 2001