I will contend, as I start this review of Club Dead, that [[Charlaine Harris]] could write Sookie Stackhouse books in her sleep. The lure of these books comes from the brilliant continuity in the series – each book is an adventure all on its own, but the storyline progresses the more Sookie delves into the supernatural world that’s gradually revealed to her.
Also, I should apologise for the slow rate I’m churning out these Sookie Stackhouse reviews. I’ve just finished reading Dead As A Doornail and am about to start Definitely Dead. It’s just the process of reviewing them that’s taking so long!
Onward to Club Dead, though. Vampire Bill has gone on a trip leaving ominous instructions with Sookie to look after his computer and data should anything happen to him. Naturally, it’s not long before the venerable Civil War veteran and member of the undead Mr Compton goes missing.
For the uninitiated: The Sookie Stackhouse books are set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. It’s a world where vampires have come out of the closet due to advances in synthetic blood. There are quite a few supernatural beasties still lurking in that closet though, ones that Sookie will find out about, but that most people believe are fairy stories. Oh, and Sookie herself is telepathic. Got it?
This is where Eric Northman jumps in. He takes some pleasure in revealing to Sookie that Bill had left her to be with the vampire who made him, Lorena. But the word is that Bill has been kidnapped and is being held hostage by the vampire King Of Mississippi. It’s all got to do with this database of vampires that Bill’s been working on for the Queen of Louisiana. If all this king and queen stuff is spinning your head, you don’t understand much about vampire power structures, do you?
Eric helps Sookie by blackmailing a werewolf from Shreveport, Alcide Herveaux, to help her infiltrate the supernatural community in Jackson and find out what’s happened to Bill. Of course, Eric wants to help Sookie in an effort to get in her highly desirable pants, but that’s another story. Sookie and Alcide hit it off straight away, and though she’s reeling from Bill’s betrayal, she soon starts to see Alcide as a potential suitor.
He takes her to the Club Dead of the title, an almost invisible bar where the local vamps and werewolves hang out. Unfortunately, they run into Alcide’s ex-girlfriend Debbie Pelt, who takes an instant and viscious dislike to Sookie’s southern charms. Through some inventive use of her telepathy, Sookie discovers where Bill’s being held, but it takes the convenient reappearance of the slimy Steve Newlin (Fellowship Of The Sun – no, it’s not a Tolkein novel, go and look it up) creates a situation in which Sookie can infiltrate the vampire King’s nest.
I won’t go all the way and spoil it for you. Here’s what I like about this story…
First off, it introduces us to the wider world of werewolves. We already knew about Sam Merlotte, but the extent of the were/shifter community and their arcane and wacky politics introduces a new angle to the books.
Secondly, it pushes forward Eric’s agenda as a potential love interest. But it also goes some way toward showing the inexplicable attraction Sookie has for him. Saving Bill will raise him in her estimation (and let’s be honest, keep him out of trouble with the Queen of Lousiana). It also throws forward Alcide Herveaux as a possible lover. Sookie bonds well with his sister, and she begins to imagine herself in all sorts of domestic bliss with him. Waking up with your lover to the first rays of sun isn’t something you can experience with a vampire.
Thirdly, I find that as Sookie spends more time with vampires and werewolves, her attitude to people who would do her wrong is increasingly more mercenary. She gradually evolves from a Christian perspective to believing that if they meant to harm another person, then they probably deserve whatever comes to them. We start to see the beginnings of this new viewpoint in Club Dead, particularly as Sookie makes her first kill.
If I have one grumble, it’s the fact that Bubba the dumb vampire hold the key to a lingering part of the mystery at the end of the story. Whenever we find out, it’s startlingly obvious, but it feels a little bit contrived for my tastes. Gotta love Bubba though – a mentally retarded Elvis who’s been turned into a vampire by a cack-handed morgue assistant.
Still, it ends beautifully by breaking up Bill and Sookie. The connection between them remains, but I find that Bill’s betrayal serves as a catalyst for Sookie to explore the supernatural world more.
The Unreality Shout book club is reading these books at the moment. We move on to the next book in the series, Dead To The World next. If you want to get the compendium of the first eight books, they’re available at Amazon for a reasonable price.