Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

Posted by Simcha 7:21 PM, under | 1 comment

After I had finished reading Dead and Gone last year, I told myself that if the next book in the series does not show vast improvement then I'm done with these books- and then I went on to write my harshest book review yet. So as the publication date for Dead in the Family approached, my eagerness was tinted by apprehension. Would this be the end of the road for me and Sookie, or will Charlaine Harris come through and provide a book equal to the earlier ones in the series, which had so solidly hooked me?

Well, Dead in the Family turned out to be somewhere in the middle. It certainly wasn't as bad at Dead and Gone (which is saying something) though it didn't completely renew my faith in the author's ability to turn the series around and bring back the earlier magic.

Going in, I had my doubts as to how Harris would handle Sookie's reaction to the traumatic events in the last book, and to that end I was satisfied. Harris does not make light of what Sookie has been through and she convincingly portrays Sookie's struggles to get back on her feet and recover as best she can. Sookie's relationship with both Eric and her cousin Claude are also changed by what she has been through, and the many deaths of those close to her continue to hang over her head.

Dead in the Family is a slower book than the previous ones and focuses more on Sookie's day-to-day life, and some of the relationships in which she is involved. We get to see Eric and Sookie as a loving couple and we get to spend more time with Sookie's mind-reading nephew as well as her fairy cousin, who seems to be turning over a new leaf. What keeps the book from slowing down completely is the sudden discovery of a dead body in Sookie's yard and the suspicion that there may be dangerous fairy skulking about Sookie's house. There is also a visit from Eric's maker, which puts an unpleasant kink in the couple's new relationship, and there is some trouble with the new local vampire sheriff who apparently wants Eric out of the way.

I had forgotten what a delightful characters Sookie is and I was pleased that Dead in the Family brought that back to me. Though I'm not quite as enchanted by the new loving and vulnerable Eric. Every time he called Sookie "my lover," I felt a little bit nauseous. I much preferred the dark and dangerous Eric of the earlier books, and I miss that delicious tension between him and Sookie, which is no longer present.

Dead in the Family also suffers from an overly crowded cast of characters. I felt like I was constantly being reintroduced to characters from previous books who I could no longer remember, and this really irritated me. Though it wasn't as bad as Dead and Gone, where characters kept walking in and out of scenes for no particular purpose. I was glad to see that Bill gets some much-needed attention here (no, Sookie doesn't take him back. *sigh*), though it did feel like his part of the story was tied up a little too neatly.

I suppose my ultimate feeling on finishing Dead in the Family was relief that it was better than the last book, but also resignation that the series is probably not going to improve much more. At this point I think the best move for Harris would be to try to end with a bang by focusing all her efforts on writing one last book in the series which would satisfactorily tie up all loose ends and perhaps even offer some surprises, and which will leave readers with only positive memories of Sookie and the Southern Vampire series. The alternative is not pretty.


Okay, it's official, I will not try another Sookie Stackhouse book. I read one, and it just didn't do it for me, but everyone constantly raving about them, and the fact that I love True Blood the tv show, has been making me have second thoughts.
But frankly, I trust your book taste, and I think they're just not for me.

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