Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Review: "Dead Reckoning" by Charlaine Harris

While I once looked forward to a new installment in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series, I’ve once again been left a little disappointed by her latest, “Dead Reckoning” ($27.95, Ace).

For me, the book has the same problem that the last volume did. A lot happens, but it really doesn’t seem like it.

The story centers on infighting in the vampire community. Eric, the sheriff of Area 5 in Louisiana and Sookie’s boyfriend, continues to have problems with the new regent of Louisiana, Victor Madden. The new boss is trying, in a number of underhanded ways, to provoke Eric into moving against him so that he can eliminate the threat with just cause in the eyes of Felipe, the vampire king of Nevada who recently took over the Louisiana kingdom. More family secrets about Sookie and her fairy relatives come to light. Sandra Pelt, the psychotic sister of Debbie Pelt, who Sookie killed in self defense earlier in the series, is out of prison and out to get the telepathic waitress. And there’s still some instability and social distrust caused by the revelation of the two-natured – weres and shifters – but it’s played down from previous volumes.

The book tackles a lot in a short volume, and it feels rushed. Nothing is allowed to build and develop, but instead each storyline seems to be charging toward its conclusion with little drama or tension. There are three key events to the overall storyline of the books that happen abruptly in the final couple of chapters in a very neat wrap up, and though Sookie should be in quite a bit of peril, at least in two of the situations, the reader never really feels like she’s in danger. Mr. Cataliades, the demon lawyer, reveals to Sookie quite a few juicy morsels from her family’s past, but they’re delivered matter-of-factly and without any real emotional input. And the Sandra Pelt storyline is like a complete afterthought. It’s introduced early in the book, supported by a couple of incidents and mentioned a few more times so you don’t forget it, then it’s dealt with in an exceptionally anticlimactic fashion. It’s almost like Harris knows she has to wrap it up and does it as efficiently as she can.

By the end of the book, Sookie is shell-shocked and emotionally drained by all that’s happened in her life, and the reader feels pretty much the same way. It almost seems more like a Cliffs Notes version of a much larger novel than the entire novel itself.

As frustrated as I get with the HBO series “True Blood” and its major deviations from Harris’ stories, I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed the show more than the past couple of books. I still have an emotional investment in the characters there, even if some of them don’t quite seem to be the characters that I fell in love with in Harris’ early novels. I can’t say the same for “Dead Reckoning.”

On a positive note, I was pleased by the return of Bubba, and his inclusion as a major plot point in this book. Though I realize there would probably be some legal issues involved with bringing him into the series, I’d certainly like to see him as a character in the HBO show.

I don't want it to sound like I didn't enjoy "Dead Reckoning," though I know it does. Like the previous installments in the series, it's still a fun, quick read. It’s just, unfortunately, not as engaging or satisfying as I’ve come to expect from Harris.

No comments: