Sunday, September 02, 2007

Dead as a Doornail – review

Author: Charlaine Harris

First Published: 2005

Contains spoilers

This is the fifth of the Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Mysteries (another book series about to get a TV spin off) and as such is probably of low interest to those not already reading the series – assuming that, like me, you insist on reading a series in the correct order.

For those not versed in the series this is another supernatural cornucopia series, featuring various non-human entities. Set in the small town of Bon Tempes, Louisiana, Sookie is a cocktail waitress and very much human. However, she has always struggled with a secret – she can read minds and this is more often a curse rather than a blessing.

As the series began we were introduced to a world where vampires had come out of the closet, so to speak, after the release of synthetic blood. The other supernatural creatures remain hidden, perhaps waiting to see how things work out for the vampires. Sookie, in book one, met Bill – a vampire – and was attracted to him because his mind was silent to her – a good thing as vampires crave secrecy (which seems at odds with revealing themselves, but it is all a matter of degrees).

In this volume her brother, Jason, has been infected with lycanthropy (an event from the last book) – of a panther variety and is getting used to his new life. However someone is shooting shifters and suspicion turns on the newly infected Jason. There is also a story surrounding Sookie’s friend Tara who is in an abusive relationship with a vampire named Mickey and the competition for pack leader of the local werewolves.

Harris has packed a lot into this volume, though as I said it is part of a series with the baggage that naturally brings, and manages to hold the threads neatly together and bring them to a satisfying, if often dark, conclusion.

One thing that befuddles me with this kind of book, being supernatural horror/fantasy, is how they never seem to be accurately pigeonholed by publishers. This volume (the recently released UK hardback) is on Gollancz Romance – a strange choice as, although the book does contain romantic elements, it is not a romance novel. That said, whilst you should never judge a book by its cover, at least the cover is more fitting than the previous paperback covers that made the volumes look like children’s books – they are far from that.

Rant about publishers and covers aside this is, like all the books in the series, well written with realistic characters in extraordinary and fantastical settings. It contains a level of humour, running through the background but, for Sookie fans, the character has always been a lightening rod for trouble but in this she may as well have been hexed – if something can go wrong it will.

7 out of 10.

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