Sep 18

Book Review – Dead in the Family

As sort of a taste for what I am doing at Geek Speak, here is one of my archived book reviews.  You should really go to the website for this month where I am reviewing Army of Darkness, a classic of the B-movie genre.

Sookie, by David Desbois at
Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

Due to some last-minute hijinks from Amazon, I had to wait an unusually long time for this novel. Of course, as soon as it arrived, it was devoured in around four hours of non-stop reading. For 311 pages, I was surprised by how fast it went. As always, the writing is crisp and I was left with the compulsion to speak with a Southern accent and call everyone cher for hours afterward. That’s what this series does to me: although none of the characters are like this, I want to do something like speak only in Cajun. Luckily, I only considered writing this review that way for a second. (Mais, yeah? We gonna pass a good time anyhow!) (Okay, really, I’m done now.)

Dead in the Family begins almost where the last book, Dead and Gone, left off. Previously, our heroine Sookie Stackhouse had really created a relationship with her Fairy Grandfather (which does sound cool!) — of course, all that went to hell when he put her in the middle of a war with a fairy clan that hated humans and wanted to kill them all, particularly hybrids like Sookie. Sookie found out that fairies had killed her parents, and she was tortured for quite some time by those same fairies before being rescued by her vampire ex-boyfriend Bill and her fae prince grandfather, Niall. Now, with her supernatural relatives mostly dead or escaped to Fairyland, she is left to recover.

And Sookie is NOT HAPPY AT ALL.

The book begins following Sookie’s rehabilitation, and she is torn up. Unable to drink more vampire blood for healing because she’s had too much as it is (she’s been on a steady diet of the stuff for the last nine books or so), she has to heal slowly and with painful physical therapy. Furthermore, her blood bond with her boyfriend, the millennia-old vampire Eric Northman, has gotten so strong that she’s also feeling much of his anger. And there are lots of people she wants dead. In fact, this is a much more bloodthirsty Sookie than in previous books. Usually, she’s content with killing people in self-defense, but now she’s actively seeking the deaths of people who did her wrong. And how can you blame her? If I’d had chunks of my flesh ripped out of me by nasty magical beings, I would probably be seeking all kinds of revenge on the people, or things, that allowed it to happen, too.

During this time, Bill is also trying to recover from the silver poisoning he contracted while rescuing Sookie from the wicked fairies. Unfortunately, it looks like the only person that could have truly cured him is his dead Maker and ex-lover Lorena; equally unfortunately, she was one of those folks Sookie killed in self-defense. In the end, Sookie finds a way around that, but in doing so might also find herself losing Bill to a different vampire. Frankly, I’m not particularly sad about that. Besides my general Sookie/Eric shippiness, Bill is (bless his heart!) kind of an asshole. Plus, he likes listening to Kenny G and pays more attention to his computer than her. She really is better off without that.

This book is surprisingly chock full of plot points, both large and small. Life moves on and the characters with it. As in many of the Sookie Stackhouse books, there seem to be two major developing stories. The first revolves around more inner turmoil for Sookie’s former beau Alcide’s werewolf pack: a werewolf ends up dead on Sookie’s property and she is brought in to solve the mystery for the pack with her native telepathy and a whole mess of drugs. Meanwhile, Eric’s Roman Empire-era dad (Maker? Sire?) comes to town with the teenaged tsarevitch Alexei Romanov, whom he had rescued from execution at the hands of the Bolsheviks. Alexei is only just a little more messed up than Sookie is right now, but with much deadlier results, and with Eric being controlled by his half-mad Maker, there is little he can do to stop the completely-mad Alexei from killing random Shreveport kids.

Smaller plot points include Alcide’s new girlfriend, Sookie’s brother Jason’s new girlfriend, Sookie’s boss Sam’s new girlfriend, the death of a Bon Temps matriarch, the political pressure on the two-natured to “register”, and Sookie doing her best to take care of her telepathic nephew Hunter. Hunter is absolutely cute and precocious, as one would imagine a telepathic 5-year old to be; I also like that he is being included in the story this time, because it is a way that Sookie can demonstrably help her family.

Amelia Broadway also moves out of Sookie’s house with very little fanfare, and her fae cousin, the male stripper and romance novel cover model Claude, moves in. It’s sad to see Amelia go, because how could you not love a bumbling witch who turns her boyfriend into a cat? (Take that, dog people!) However, Claude is much nicer this time around, which raises suspicion as far as his motives (usually he’s your typical mean, pretty boy — nice to look at, but not a lot going on inside), but is actually a good thing.

We also see the return of Sookie’s crazy fairy half-uncle Dermot (great uncle? Great-half-uncle? I have a hard enough time keeping my own family straight–can we just say “uncle” from now on?) and hopefully an end to the “fairies want to kill Sookie” storyline. It seems that with the exit of most of them into Fairyland, we won’t have to see much more of this, but I would like to see Dermot staying in the series long-term. It will be interesting to see how he makes amends for being an accomplice to the murder of Sookie’s parents, as well as how the other characters deal with his overall nuttiness.

Charlaine Harris has three more Sookie Stackhouse books left on her contract, and I think it really shows here. It’s not that nothing happens; in fact, lots of things happen, and there are tons of developing storylines. But there are still many questions still up in the air and the most important ones continue to be completely unresolved. Even the FBI story, which was apparently wrapped up, still seems like it could open up again at any time.

I liked this book and recommend it to people who have read the other novels in this series. However, this really is a filler book, designed to tie up some loose ends, further unravel others, and generally set things up for the coming end of the series. This is not a stand-alone book that can be read without the history of the other books, which is both a good thing, and kind of a shame.


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