Though a big fan of Tru Blood I’d never actually read a Sookie Stackhouse book before. I’m not into modern Vampires as I am into historical ones, my book case in point, but this has been in the ‘To Be Read pile’ for quite some time and will be part of several upcoming reviews on Fantasy books, primarily Vampire.
‘Dead until dark’ is essentially a supernatural murder mystery. It is written in the first person in the voice of Sookie and though I tend to shy away from the first person usually, this one gradually grew on me. As a rule, I have a hard time relating to first person character narration. Lines in the vein of “my eyes seemed brighter,” or “these pants show off my legs,” are not what a person would say in real life so I can rarely relate. As an author, hyper sensitive observation goes hand in hand with writing and as I don’t observe others in the first person, there is always a disconnect for me. I understand that for lots of people books in the first person offer a very personal experience so I appreciate that it’s very much a matter of taste. In addition to that narration style I also found the first few chapters a little awkward in style, maybe even a little wooden but that soon worked itself out.
Besides Sookie, the telepath waitress with the fascination with Vampires, the book deals with a series of murders that take place in Bon Temps at a time when Vampire emancipation and mainstreaming is in its infancy. The Vampire transition from hiding to mainstream was handled very realistically, and if they were ever to come out of the shadows, I expect that people’s reactions would not differ much from this book.
As the days pass, Sookie becomes embroiled in the murders by conducting a little side investigation of her own because they slowly start taking over her life. First an acquaintance is killed, followed by another waitress, both of which have had dealings with her promiscuous brother causing her to worry about his involvement with the murders. When finally Sookie’s own grandmother is killed the onus is taken off Jason, at least in Sookie’s eyes, and the plot thickens when she too becomes a target for the murderer who seems to target women who have had sex with Vampires.
As the murder story slowly unfolds in the background, we are shown Sookie’s blossoming romance with Bill Compton, a Vampire from the time of the civil war. As Sookie is unable to hear his thoughts, unlike most other men, she is able to relax in his presence and build a relationship with him, though not without its complications due to their biological differences. Things take a turn for the worse when during an expedition to a Vamp club, Sookie reveals her abilities to a higher ranking Vampire called Eric, who takes a particular interest in her and begins to interfere in her life and relationship with Bill.
As a result of this, towards the end of the book, Bill is removed from the scene in order to take care of some ‘business’ leaving Sookie to deal with the fang banger murderer on her own (with only the protection of a dim witted vamp guard). Though I’m all for women’s lib and self-determination, I always find character removals at critical times a bit of cheap shot, so points were definitely lost there.
For the sake of spoilers however I will leave this here and say simply that it’s well written, moves quickly and is definitely a very enjoyable read. Despite its lightweight veneer it is imbued with a subtle political narrative about how we treat those different to us whether they are black, gay, shapeshifter or Vampire.