Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Sookie Stackhouse Novels: Living Dead In Dallas - BookReview

"So you want me to go to a human orgy, where I will not be welcome, and you want us to leave before I get to enjoy myself?" ~ Eric Northman

Charlaine Harris is a New York Times bestselling author

There is a murder in Bon Temps (no surprise there, however, when you consider that vampires also populate the town), this time in the car park of Merlotte's Bar and Grill, where telepath Sookie Stackhouse works.

Using her "disability", the waitress is determined to find out the truth, uncover the culprit(s) of the crime. However, before she can do that, there is another matter in urgent need of her attention. With lover and vampire Bill Compton at her side, Sookie travels to Dallas on a mission to locate a missing vampire. This is quite clearly far from a simple case of straying and before long she engages in a top secret operation to infiltrate the anti-vampire organisation Fellowship of the Sun.

Told in first person by Sookie (as are all the books in the series), there is far more to Living Dead In Dallas than the previous instalment - and it is a much faster read too, author Charlaine Harris sinking her teeth into kidnapping, murder, attempted rape... Yes, this is undeniably an adults-only read (young fans of Stephenie Meyer should stay away), but a well-crafted one at that. Unlike many vampire tales Harris isn't afraid to widen plot development to incorporate other manner of creatures, certainly adding depth to the Sookie Stackhouse Universe and placing the vampires in a world where they are not the only non-Human species. Honestly, this introduction is a major plus.

As plot develops and Sookie's adventures take her further into the dark streets of Dallas, we are acquainted with other characters including Barry the Bellboy, a young telepath who is still to learn of his abilities. Like Sookie before him, he is sure to learn the hard way. There are also other newly-introduced vampires, including Stan Davis.

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

Harris embraces a new theme in this book: vampires who wish to meet the Sun, like Godfrey, a traitor to his own kind. And yet, even then, there are depths in this author's storytelling that allow you pause for thought, a feeling of understanding and, dare I say it, brief sadness, for a pathetic creature, evil in life and death, who wishes nothing more than to end the suffering and welcome eternal sleep.

When you also consider just how menacing some Humans can be, like Steve Newlin and Gabe (Fellowship of the Sun), the question does arise: just who is the true enemy in a society populated by vampires? The answer is not as black and white as you may think.

As the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Farrell - the kidnapped vampire - is brought to its conclusion, although not without further death and violence, there is the matter of how the story first began: Sookie returns to Bon Temps for a second mission, this time without Bill but aided by vampire sheriff Eric Northman. This time, the suspects are people she knows quite well - but perhaps, didn't know well enough.

Attending an orgy, but not wishing to participate, the telepath uses her abilities positively, uncovering the truth surrounding the murder of co-worker Lafayette Reynolds, but not wishing to leave it there, Harris throws at us yet another piece of dark magic and we are fearful for Sookie's safety once more...

Much earlier on in the book we encounter the Maenad, a female creature of such power and darkness that even vampires are wary. She is a supernatural being from Greek mythology wanting tribute. But even her appearance in the novel isn't as straight forward as you might believe.

Review summary

A major step up from Book 1 and no Bubba in sight. Harris has certainly taken the strong points of Dead Until Dark and firmly injected them into this adventure, sparing us any chance of pause for breath and instead throwing us deep into the dark with nothing but Sookie for company. And what a companion she makes!

Living Dead In Dallas publication date: 2002