Charlaine Harris

A Sookie Stackhouse novel (12)

Gollancz (2011)

ISBN: 978 0 575 09653 0

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Mindreading human (sort of) Sookie Stackhouse is a magnet for trouble of the supernatural kind. Not only is her boyfriend a vampire, but she has all sorts of shapeshifters, fairies and other magical creatures harassing her regularly. It’s not just the supes though, because Sookie’s made some human enemies along the way as well, which never helps. This time, the action gets started when Sookie’s workplace, the bar of shapeshifter Sam Merlotte, is firebombed. Sookie mostly escapes injury, although that doesn’t stop vampire Eric Northam from insisting she get looked at by a hairdresser – yes, you read that right – providing a convenient introduction to the main story, involving Eric and his ‘child’ Pam. The book then lurches from plot point to plot point, labouring along without any real engagement of character or story before ‘climaxing’ in the hurried and open-ended sort of way that has become the norm for this series.

If I sound a little cynical about the storyline of Dead Reckoning, that’s because I am. This series has undergone a revival in popularity thanks to the HBO television series adaption True Blood but unfortunately, it feels like Harris really should have wound it up by now. The books are quite long but very little forward momentum has been achieved in the past several novels. Sookie seems stagnant, and while Harris continues to throw new roadblocks in her path to happiness, there is little resolution of any kind, which makes the books seem kind of pointless.

It’s not all bad – while the story was fairly slow, I did enjoy the sections where Sookie was acting as auntie to her cousin Hadley’s son (who has inherited Sookie’s own mind powers). This was a return to the strong relationships that helped make Harris so popular with the early novels. I was disappointed in the portrayal of Pam in the book though – she came across as such a weak character, when she’s always been smart, powerful and funny in the past. It seemed Harris was trying to show a softer side of Pam, but instead cut her fangs out, destroying what made her so much fun to read in the first place.

I know that Harris has a million fans who wait anxiously for each new installment of the Sookie books, but sadly for me, this series jumped the shark a while back, pretty much when Harris introduced the fairy plotline. As with many such long running series’, profit and popularity have taken precedence over production and plot – Sookie, her cast of thousands, and the ever shifting sands on which they stalk should be retired to make way for new, fresher worlds, but while they still make money, it’s unlikely to happen.