"Dead and Gone"
Charlaine Harris (Ace)
Sookie Stackhouse has returned for another bloody adventure. "Dead and Gone" is the ninth novel about the telepathic waitress from fictional Bon Temps, La., and her dealings with the supernatural world of vampires, wereanimals (they're not just wolves), shape shifters, witches, demons and fairies.
In the latest tale, wereanimals and shape shifters, known as the "two-natured," have joined vampires in "coming out" to the human race. It starts with a woman turning into werewolf on the evening news.
The subsequent backlash could have made a good story line but author Charlaine Harris doesn't go there. The only consequence is told in a third-person account by Sookie's boss, Sam Merlotte, whose mother, also a shape shifter, is shot by her husband. Lesson learned: If you're planning to tell your spouse that you're a little different, hide the weapons first.
Instead, Harris focuses on the fairy world and the struggles of Sookie's great-grandfather, Niall Brigant, within his fairy kingdom. He's a powerful prince who shows up occasionally and mostly puts Sookie at risk. A war is brewing between Niall and his nephew, and Sookie becomes a target. But Harris hides this mysterious world from the reader, which makes for an even more convoluted narrative.
Some colourful characters from previous Harris vampire books get scant mention in "Dead and Gone," leaving you to wonder, "Where did they go?" An unexpected visit from Sookie's former weretiger lover amounts to only a few words. Another former lover happens along and a fight ensues. Then, both men "up and went." What was the point?
The constant theme in these Southern vampire novels is Sookie's aptitude for self-preservation. Armed with water pistols filled with lemon juice, and a gardening tool, she manages to battle her more powerful fairy enemies. But she does not escape unharmed. After drinking vampire blood, which is highly restorative, she recovers to fight another day.
For those who haven't read the previous Sookie Stackhouse novels, "Dead and Gone" is not the place to start. Your best bet would be to pick up, "Dead Until Dark," the first novel in the series and the basis of HBO's surprise hit series, "True Blood," produced by "Six Feet Under," creator Alan Ball.
While Ball dedicates more time to the development of secondary characters, Harris keeps her books focused on Sookie's perspective. The problem, though, is that you don't get to know the other characters well enough to care about them.
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