Charlaine Harris

A Sookie Stackhouse novel

Gollancz (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-575-08933-4

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

There are some series that I think really should end. I have enjoyed reading Sookie for a number of years, and I love the TV adaptation True Blood, but sadly, Sookie has jumped the shark. I’m pretty sure this occurred as soon as the fairy storyline was introduced, but regardless of when it happened, I wish Harris would gracefully retire her telepathic Southern Belle and her massive cast and move on to fresh pasture.

Sookie’s life is more complicated than ever, with her fairy cousin Claude insisting on moving in, her vampire boyfriend Eric having trouble with his sire, and the werewolves of Shreveport asking for favours. Add to that Sookie’s ex, Bill, needing help and the general malarkey that goes on in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and this book is packed with “stuff” happening.

The main problem I have with this book is that there is not a lot of cohesion to the plot. In addition, the characterisation of the main players has changed so significantly from the original outlines we met in the first books that they no longer have the appeal they once did. If the writing was tight and the story compelling, this wouldn’t really be an issue, but there’s very little suspense in the book, which means it’s easy to put down and hard to pick back up.

I also found that there was a significant piece of story missing. After the events of the previous book, Sookie was left very traumatised and understandably reluctant in terms of sexual relations. This changes in Dead in the Family, but the reasons are vague. If I hadn’t read the recent A Touch of Dead anthology of Sookie stories, in particular the disturbing story “Gift Wrap”, I would have had no idea about the reason for Sookie’s changing feelings. I think this is a major failing of the novel, and is unfair to readers who haven’t read the anthology. It might be a minor part of the story, but I don’t think it’s a good thing for authors to rely on readers having managed to get their hands on every other story and book they’ve written!

In all, Dead in the Family is readable, as Charlaine Harris always is, but I’m over the Sookie stories and the lack of driving plot. Fans of the series and the show will no doubt continue to want more, but I wouldn’t be going out of my way to read further.