Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels (Southern Vampire Mysteries) has been a favorite of mine for a few years now. Her novels are a quirky mix of mystery, romance and urban fantasy and are simply written. Pure undiluted sustenance for the escapist mind.
What originally drew me into these books, apart from my
obsessive interest in vampires, was Harris’s characters. The characters have their strengths and their faults, like most heroes and villains do, but the way Harris is able to get right into their heads and projects their innermost emotions and desires out for the reader is fascinating. You know, those undercurrents of desire that are so deeply buried that they surface only for moments before being buried again? The way she achieves this is by using the protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse, a mid 20-something reclusive barmaid who has not entirely controllable telepathic abilities. Attempting to keep her abilities hidden from the general public, she has instead been branded “weird” or a witch.
It’s fun to see Sookie become a stronger woman, as she begins to use her ability to help solve crimes and struggles with her conscience as she is introduced to a differently functioning society – a society where killing is an every day occurrence and vampires, weres and other “supes” are just beginning to reveal themselves to the general human population.
The books also deal with some more serious themes, including religion and extremist fanaticism, bigotry, and politics, all wrapped up in a neat, sexy, little package.
Dead Reckoning is the latest book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series, released May 3rd. One that I was a bit apprehensive about reading, since I was so disappointed in the previous book, Dead in the Family. I had high expectations that Dead Reckoning would wrap up some important plot lines that had been totally disregarded in the previous book and dig deeper into “supe” society. The character of Sookie Stackhouse has been arrested in development for several books now, and I was expecting her to grow and mature further. Lots of expectations that were unfortunately crushed by the time I was done reading this particular book.
The first 100 pages of the book were exciting, action-packed, and I was certain my wishes for the book were going to be realized. Harris introduced a couple more potentially interesting characters and the book seemed to be steering toward some interesting direction. And then… something odd happened and Harris either lost interest or grew tired and she recycled some older plot lines (ones that I felt should have been insignificant and certainly didn’t deserve being the focus of the novel) and the action sequences became repetitive and lacked the hook or climax that I would have expected from a seasoned author such as Charlaine Harris. It was as if she started to delve into a particular topic, then got frightened of where said topic might lead and decided to stick with the same old shtick.
And of course, the all important relationship between Sookie and Eric took a turn that was surprising (for the worse, in my opinion). It’s even more awful because Harris leaves everything completely open – and not in the suspenseful sort of way – she just leaves the readers hanging in limbo. The ending, while it does tie up one of the major plot lines in the book, was anticlimactic and dull.
Despite all my criticisms , it was okay. Not great, not awful, but okay. I’m still in love with Harris’ world and the characters in her world. Things were just too easy. No one gets hurt (much), no new major developments, just minor hints at some interesting things to come. Just like the last book. I would have been much happier had something happened beyond what everyone already knew was going to happen.
I’m left wondering, what’s going on with Charlaine Harris?