Reading a Sookie Stackhouse novel is like sitting down with an old friend. She's such a likable character. You feel like you know her even though she only exists on the page. A down home Southern girl, she enjoys her Dairy Queen ice cream while making sure her toenails are brightly painted at all times. At heart, she's a girly girl, yet she's real and easy to relate to.
In Charlaine Harris' 11th installment of the continuing saga that inspired the hit HBO series True Blood, Sookie is once again running for her life against humans, vampires, werewolves, shape shifters and fairies. Merlotte's bar is firebombed leaving her with a singed ponytail and rattled nerves. She is repeatedly attacked by the newly released Sandra Pelt whose sister she killed. Her vampire "husband," Eric, is keeping a monumental secret that will affect their romantic relationship. Not to mention his club, Fangtasia, is struggling under the reign of the new Louisiana regent, Victor. Things are looking pretty bleak.
Over the course of the series, Sookie has grown from a naive, socially isolated telepath to a pawn in a supernatural power struggle to a more jaded, cynical combatant. Still reeling from the effects of being subjected to fairy torture, Harris begins to portray her heroine as a hardened survivor. She realizes that she now belongs among the ranks of those who have taken a life. Her innocence is replaced by a skeptical and suspicious worldview.
Yet underneath the surface, the same sweet Sookie remains. Her first vampire boyfriend, Bill, used her to advance his career. Her Gran never revealed her hidden fairy heritage. Her lover, Eric, tricked her into a blood bond. Yet, she still holds onto an optimistic outlook. That's why you keep coming back to these stories to see how she is going to battle though the next catastrophe.
As the series progresses, I feel it has "jumped the shark" a bit. Dead Reckoning and the previous novel, Dead in the Family, are a tad jumbled and convoluted in storyline. It seems that there are just too many supernatural communities to keep track of - that it's hard to catch up with all of the pertinent characters in one book. Instead, they all tend to make cameo appearances. Sookie's brother, Jason, is briefly mentioned as he drives by in his truck. Amelia, the witch, arrives back in Bon Temps only to be thrown out of Sookie's house. Alcide, the werewolf, fulfills his shirtless scene requirement then exits stage left. There are too many people to touch base with in only 325 pages.
And it's a shame because that's where Harris connects with her readers - through the memorable, distinctive personalities that inhabit her novels. Whether it is the town drunk, Jane Bodehouse, sitting at Merlotte's bar or Pam the vampire's sarcastic one-liners, we look forward to reconnecting with these characters when we pick up the latest Sookie Stackhouse book. Unfortunately, in this go-around, we're left with quick glimpses of the cast instead of any lengthy, back porch conversations.
Overall, Dead Reckoning advances the narrative, of the Sookie Stackhouse series as a whole, setting up what looks to be an interesting book #12. However, as a stand alone book, it is creatively tapped out.
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris is available for $27.95 at Amazon.com and at CharlaineHarris.com.
Review copy provided by Valley Community Library.
Review featured on Examiner.com's Book Club home page