Friday, May 29, 2009

"Dead and Gone" by Charlaine Harris

This is the ninth book in Harris's Southern Vampire series, and much as I love Sookie and Harris, I think the series is starting the inevitable downhill slide. Don't hate the messenger, people! It always seems to happen at some point, especially once a series gets insanely popular and/or hits the magic number 7 - after the seventh book or so, they just don't seem nearly as good as they once were. Sigh. Perhaps Harris is running out of ideas, or perhaps she's just too busy with the HBO series True Blood; I don't know. But this offering was not of the same quality as others in the Sookie series.

Things start off with a bang, almost literally. The weres, following the lead of the vamps, have decided to come out, and there are the usual mixed emotions after the big reveal. Several of the weres are relieved not to have to hide their true nature anymore, while others are nervous about their friends and family. With good reason, as one peripheral character is injured almost immediately. Sookie is at Merlotte's when the reveal occurs on live TV; her boss, Sam, and another were change in the bar to show people that weres are just like everyone else. Most are surprised but pleased by the news, all but waitress Arlene, who's been cozying up to an ultra-zealot group of vamp/were/anyone-different-than-us haters.

Soon after the reveal, Crystal, Jason's wife and Sookie's sister-in-law, is killed and crucified in the bar's parking lot. There's a lot of confusion over whether she was killed for her wanton ways (her cheating ways were well-known to most of Bon Temps) or for her were nature; it could be a possible hate crime. There's a pair of FBI agents in town wanting to recruit Sookie for her telepathic abilities (which she doesn't admit to, of course) and they immediately take over the crime scene. Sookie is scared and worried for her brother, as most will assume that Jason killed her for cheating on him. But Sookie knows that Jason would never do that, not when Crystal was pregnant with his child...

Eric is back in full force and basically wants to lay claim to our gal. She's not happy with his heavy-handed ways, but due to a big power shift in the vamp world, she might have to put up with them to keep herself out of the new head honcho's hands. Oh, and there appears to be more than one person out to kill her, too. She's evidently become a pawn in the fairie war between her grandfather and another leader. What's a girl to do?

Well, in this book, a lot. And I think that's where most of my complaint comes in - there is just way, way, way too much going on here. There's the possible hate crime of Crystal's murder, which really and truly probably should've been the focus of the book. Add to that the Eric stuff, the fae stuff, the FBI stuff, and it's just a mish-mash of plot lines. My other big complaint is how violent this entry is. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against violence in and of itself. But these books haven't really been about that sort of thing, not to this extent. I don't know if Harris is setting up stuff that will be good for HBO down the road, or if she just thought this was a dark time in Sookie's life and the writing should reflect that. OH! And there's a very weird and distracting scene with Sookie's ex-boyfriend, Quinn, one that I'm not really sure was necessary. Again, I don't know if Harris is trying to keep him in our minds with a possible return to the canvas, or if she caught so much flack from the unceremonial dumping he took in the previous book that she wanted to soothe some ruffled feathers; either way, it just didn't work for me.

While I'm disappointed in this book, I haven't given up on the series, not yet. However, having said that, I think I'm only willing to read one more book like this before I start looking elsewhere. I have really enjoyed Sookie's story, but I'm not willing to stick with it if the writing is headed downhill. Here's hoping that Harris leaves the TV stuff to the TV folk and concentrates on what got her to HBO in the first place.

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