Charlaine Harris – Dead to the World (2004/2005)
Dead to the World is the fourth book in Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, and by this time in the series, most readers will probably have a pretty good handle on who the characters are. Unlike the previous book, which is rather downbeat and particularly brutal, this book is much more humorous and entertaining, while also having a couple of solid, intriguing plotlines, which Harris quite deftly weaves into a well-crafted, coherent story.
Like all the other books in the series, this novel is told from the point of view of Sookie, a psychic waitress who is just getting over a passionate, though short, relationship with a vampire named Bill. Things start getting weird pretty quickly in this book, however, when Sookie spots a half-naked man running barefoot in the snow on her way home from work on New Year’s Eve. She recognizes the man after a few seconds as Eric, a rich, powerful, and ancient vampire who runs a business empire out of Shreveport. Unfortunately for Eric, he has been hexed by a group of witches and can’t remember who he is or what’s happened to him. Sookie, being a good citizen, takes Eric home, contacts the vampires who work for him, and agrees to keep him hidden from the witches who are trying to find for him. Stuck with a tall, blond, god-like vampire in her care, Sookie quickly begins to have “adult” thoughts, and all manner of hilarity ensues.
This book leans pretty heavily on the “romance” angle, as the now single Sookie rather quickly falls for the “helpless” Viking vamp. And, in this book Harris has a (rather explicit) good time describing the couple’s budding romance. (I would NOT recommend this one to younger readers or for people who have an aversion to erotic adventures.) Let’s just say, things get steamy (in a slightly necrophiliac sense.) Throughout this series, Sookie is beset by a plethora of potential suitors, and by the end of this book I think she’s already racked up a solid half-dozen men, vamps, and other creatures who have stated their interest in her. Of course, part of what makes this series popular is the big question: Who will Sookie end up with? (I’m not a big fan of romance novels on principle, but I do like Harris’s characters, so watching them jockey for position can be pretty fun.)
The second important storyline in this book is the disappearance of Sookie’s brother, Jason. Because he’s a troublemaker, the police are less than excited to go looking for him, and Sookie suspects that Jason might have been kidnapped by the witches that hexed Eric. Wrapped around Eric’s amnesia, Sookie and Eric’s romance, and Jason’s disappearance are a number of crisscrossing plotlines, including a war between the witches and the supernatural creatures of Shreveport, a strange community of shape-shifters living outside of Sookie’s hometown, and a psychotic, jealous were-lynx who thinks Sookie is moving in on her werewolf.
One of the best parts of this book is the character, Pam, Eric’s second in command, but she gets to take center stage in many scenes in this novel since her boss is incapacitated. Pam is described as looking just like Alice from Alice in Wonderland, but is supposedly several hundred years old. In this book, particularly in the battle between the witches and the monsters, you get to see Pam go seriously hardcore and show a vicious and somewhat twisted sense of humor, which is quite fun. Pam is one of my favorite characters in the series, so it was fun to see her featured so heavily in a story.
To sum up, I really enjoyed this book. There are several mysteries to solve that keep Sookie in suspense, the tone is more entertaining and fast paced than the previous book, with a lot more humor (and NO rape scenes), and each of the storylines contributes to the novel as a whole this time (unlike some of the previous books, where the opening mystery has little to do with the main story.) The characters are more fully realized in this book, as well, mostly because Harris has had three previous novels to flesh out who they are. Of the first four books, Dead to the World has been my favorite on this reread through the series. The balance between humor, horror, mystery, and romance is just right, and it makes me look forward to reading the next novel---although it might be a while before I get to it. I’ve got a few other things to cover first!
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)