Sunday, August 01, 2004

Review: "Dead to the World" by Charlaine Harris

After a rough year, Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress in the small town of Bon Temps, just wants to rest. In the past year, she's hooked up and broken up with a vampire boyfriend, her brother has been accused of murder, she's been sent to Dallas to investigate a vampire kidnapped by a group of humans and she's had to rescue her vampire boyfriend from torture at the hands of his maker.

As the new year turns, she resolves not to get beaten up. Now, only a couple of days into the new year, she's about to break that resolution - big time.

"Dead to the World" ($19.95, Ace) is Charlaine Harris' fourth book about the supernatural community of Bon Temps, a fictional small town somewhere between Monroe and Shreveport, and it's about time she got a hardcover title.

The latest installment brings back a lot of familiar characters: telepathic Sookie, her shapeshifter boss who turns into a collie, her ne'er-do-well brother Jason, her vampire ex-boyfriend Bill, werewolf Alcide Hervaux and the vampires of the Shreveport bar Fangtasia. She also introduces new characters, including a strange group of folks from an outlying area named Hotshot.

The adventures begin when Eric, the sheriff of the local vampire community, shows up on Sookie's drive home with a serious case of amnesia. When she calls the other Shreveport vamps, she somehow ends up as his protector.

Meanwhile, her brother goes missing, leaving only a blood stain and a strange print on his pier. Then there's the coven of shape-shifting, vampire blood-addicted witches that seem to be moving in on the vampires' territory, and their leader has a vendetta against Shreveport's supernatural community.

As with the other three books in the series, "Dead to the World" is great fun. It's light and fast-paced - no long, woe-is-me philosophical passages for Harris' vampires, just action from start to finish.

Harris strikes a style that's much more fun than Anne Rice and less sexually charged than Laurell K. Hamilton. She tells the story with a down-home flavor that's not often found in the horror or fantasy sections of the bookstore.

I was a little disappointed that I was able to figure out the mystery of her brother's disappearance so early, but it didn't spoil the book. If you haven't checked out Harris' Southern vampire series yet, you should. It's great fun, particularly for folks who live in this neck of the woods.

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