For me, All Together Dead is the novel where Charlaine Harris begins to pull out of a 2-3 novel slump. Wisely ditching the majority of werewolf characters, she drags Sookie Stackhouse into a vampire summit, simplifying the story immensely and delving deeper into the world of the undead than ever before.
In fact, even Sookie’s fairy godmother Claudine warns her that by attending the vampire summit, she’ll never be able to break her association with the vampire hierarchy.
Basically, Sookie is employed by Sophie Anne LeClerq as a telepath at the summit to make sure there are no surprises from the human guests. For the first time in ages, Sookie meets Barry The Bellboy, the only other telepath she knows. Barry is now employed by vampires in a similar capacity as Sookie.
From the outset, there’s weirdness. There are deaths, and it’s clear that someone’s trying to sabotage the summit. Sophie-Anne’s due to be tried for the death of her vampire husband, and Sookie’s an important part of her defense. The Arkansas vampires (or what’s left of them) are keen to see Sophie Anne punished, even though she wasn’t responsible for the killing of Peter Threadgil.
We get cameo appearances from Quinn the Weretiger, and a deeper insight into the vampire power structure than ever before. Eric’s there, as always. Bill’s floating around like a morose ghost. And Sookie’s chemistry with Barry the Bellboy is fantastic as always.
But what Harris gets absolutely right in this book is that she raises the stakes. The climax of All Together Dead is a huge bomb planted by the Fellowship Of The Sun in the hotel where the summit is being held. Sookie discovers too late what’s actually happening, and races to save the vampires she holds dearest. It’s truly the vampire 9/11 as she and Barry pick through the wreckage for survivors, human and vampire alike.
Harris paints in all the detail here, having Sookie exposing her telepathy but worrying about the effects on her life if the authorities discover what she can do. As for the vampires, she shows no remorse when Quinn kills off Andre, Sophie Anne’s right hand vamp.
An excellent book, weaving in the antagonism of the Fellowship with a large-scale terrorist attack that draws parallels with right-wing Christianity and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Harris fairly successfully taps into the different levels of prejudice – the “God hates Vamps” movement being a metaphor for any Western prejudice you care to mention, but imagining those prejudices exaggerated to the point where the perpetrators – American this time – will cause large-scale loss of life for their ’cause’.