Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Sookie Stackhouse Novels: Dead as a Doornail - BookReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

There is much happening at Bon Temps lately, and telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse is right up to her neck in vampires, Weres, assassins and leadership struggles when she isn't serving food and drink at Merlotte's Bar & Grill.

Her brother Jason has joined the Were society as full moon approaches. It is an anxious time for Sookie. But the anxiety isn't helped when a gunman starts targeting the Were population, even shooting Sam, Sookie's boss, in the process. There is much unrest as a police investigation is launched to locate the killer of other Weres, though their true identity as supernatural creatures is not widely known to those outside of the "community". With Sam out of action, a new face is given the task of working at Merlotte's: a vampire by the name of Charles Twining, Eric's new bartender at the Fangtasia club. The story also focuses on the death of Colonel Flood, leader of the Long Tooth were pack of Shreveport, and the need for a new packmaster.

Following the previous book, Dead To The World, vampire sheriff Eric Northman (Louisiana has several vampire districts, Eric being the sheriff of Area Five) is determined to learn of his time spent during the memory loss inflicted by the witch Marnie "Hallow" Stonebrook; he is especially interested in understanding the manner of his "relationship" with Sookie. Of course, the Viking vampire finds good enough reason to persuade Sookie to come clean after she turns to him for help regarding friend Tara Thorton...

This, the fifth in the "The Southern Vampire Mysteries" book series, is a little slower than Book Four and manages to stretch the shooting mystery a little too thinly, with far less in between to make the plot work as well as in previous stories.

That said, there is a charm about "Dead As A Doornail", and a real community spirit as author Charlaine Harris weaves her magic over the characters, bringing them together as they face the reality that a killer is on the loose. This apprehension is well realised when Sookie's own life is put in danger after a fire engulfs her home. This, as it happens, appears to be the work of a Fellowship of the Sun member, as possible revenge for Sookie's involvement with vampires in Dallas (Living Dead in Dallas).

Not wishing to forget past events, Harris neatly returns to the killing of Alcide Herveaux's jealous shapeshifter ex-girlfriend Debbie Pelt. There is also a nice connection to the debut book in the series, Dead Until Dark. "Dead As A Doornail" also introduces a new character, the were tiger known as Quinn, who acts as referee during the Long Tooth packmaster trials. The book even gives us a thankfully brief encounter with the vampire Bubba, known in life as "the King of Rock and Roll", as he delivers some important news to Sookie.

Looking back at the competition for wolfpack leader, it is interesting that Sookie's interference - even at the request of Alcide and his brethren - does lead to tragic consequences, not ending the way it should. Proof that the waitress' abilities can be a curse after all. Is it even possible that such an act could leave long-term damage to Sookie's friendship with the were, Alcide? Her involvement in political matters concerning the supernatural elements of Bon Temps does hold the possibility of broken friendships and shattered alliances if she isn't too careful with the choices she makes. Her dealings with vampires has already brought her far too close for comfort to personal tragedy...

Charlaine Harris' journey through the first five books has been an interesting one, not just introducing us to vampires but opening up myth and legend, revealing all manner of the supernatural. We have watched Sookie Stackhouse develop from a naive girl into a woman of the world, far more relaxed in her own flesh and quite capable of facing danger with determined steel resolve. She has lost her virginity, been close to death, and even killed - twice so far, a Were (Debbie Pelt - "Dead To The World") and a vampire (Lorena Ball, Bill Compton's maker and former lover - Club Dead).

"Dead As A Doornail" might not be the strongest book in the series, but as part of an ongoing chapter, it works well.

Review summary

Slower than the previous installment, but still a good read.

Dead as a Doornail publication date: 2005