Charlaine Harris – Dead In The Family – Book review

I’m interrupting my review series of the Sookie Stackhouse books (currently at Dead To The World) to give you my review of the latest ‘episode’ in the series, Dead In The Family. Now, things from hereon in are likely to get spoilerific, so here’s your warning. Read on at your own peril.

Now, given that I’m in the middle of recapping all the Sookie Stackhouse books, I was gobsmacked to see how far Sookie had come in the space of just a few books. What happened to Quinn, the dude-like weretiger with mommy issues? Oh, that’s right…mommy issues. I’d also forgotten about the hostile takeover of Area 5 and the about-timely demise of Sophie-Anne Leclerq. But the Fae War…that stuck in my head as Sookie’s darkest hour.

The Plot

And that’s where we pick up in Dead In The Family. Sookie’s recovering from the most horrific injuries she’s ever gained at the hands of the supernaturals. This time a bunch of renegade fairies. Her fairy grandfather has retreated back to the land of the Fae, closing the doorway between theirs and the human world forever. (Except probably not forever, ever.) And saddest of all, the New Orleans witch Amelia Broadway has left town…probably for good. I’ll really miss her, I thought bringing in a roommate for Sookie was a great idea, and better than the idea of Tara sharing with her in the TV series.

Things improve quickly though. Sookie’s back in Bon Temps, in the darkest mood of her life. She’s lost friends and family and she’s physically scarred from her run-in with the fairies. Moreover, she’s closer than ever to the “kill or be killed” attitude of the vampires she hangs out with. It’s Sookie who suggests to Eric that they need to find a way to kill Victor, the vamp who Eric believes is trying to undermine his authority with the new vampire king of Louisiana.

Harris unleashes the usual battery of sub-plots – Sookie’s cousin Claude moves in with her, there’s trouble when the Long Tooth werewolf pack go for a run in Sookie’s woods and discover the scent of fairy in the area. Sookie also ends up babysitting her telepathic nephew and giving him a few pointers on how to use and mask his gift from others. Elsewhere, Bill Compton is ailing after being bitten by silver-tipped teeth. The poison in his blood is preventing him from healing and he’s looking like death warmed up. Which, of course, he is.

But worst of all, Eric’s maker arrives in town with a young Russian vampire in tow. It’s this that causes a significant amount of trouble, since Eric is essentially bound to obey his maker’s orders. So, if Appius Livius Occella wishes to call Eric away – or worse, commands him to kill Sookie – Eric is bound to follow those orders. Worse still, the young vampire with Appius is Alexei Romanov – of the massacred Russian royal family. His experiences have scarred him to the point where he’s a psychopath – Appius barely has control of him and has brought him to be with Eric to see if being close to his vampire sibling calms him. It doesn’t.

Sookie’s work rooting out a betrayal for the Shreveport werewolves sees her taking Shamanic drugs to help her ‘see the truth’ in the people around her. It’s interesting to see Alcide Herveaux now – as the leader of the pack and a much stronger character, less the romantic puppydog he’d earlier been for Sookie’s affections. The idea of a stoned Sookie investigating the werewolf pack is hilarious and Harris does a great job of giving us a giggle at Sookie’s blunt observations while she roots out the wrongdoers.

The Review

I’m writing this review almost a week after reading the book and it’s already a blur of activity. It took me a few selected re-reads to get the plot straight. That’s a trademark of [[Charlaine Harris]]’s. There’s so much going on in any one novel that recapping can be a bitch of a job.

Still, my first impression remains the same – I was thrilled from start to finish. That Eric regards Sookie as his spouse now, and not just for vampire political reasons. The detail…that Appius would try and make a vampire out of a highly traumatised child on the cusp of death, a member of a murdered Russian family. That brings back overtones of Anne Rice for me.

Most people will talk about the newer, darker Sookie Stackhouse. I’ve talked about this before in my Charlaine Harris reviews. The more time Sookie spends in the dog-eat-dog world of vampires, werewolves and fairies, the more deadly she becomes herself. She suggests killing off the evil Victor before he does something worse to Eric, and she’d happily stake Appius, Eric’s maker. In fact, he remarks upon this when he picks up her thoughts through their blood bond.

Most of all, I enjoyed the theme of closeness to your kin that runs through this novel. There’s a correlation with healing that comes from this: that Bill can only survive the blood poisoning by drinking from his vampire sibling (who was chosen by their maker Lorena for her resemblance to Bill’s human wife). Sookie takes comfort in her family – developing a normal relationship with Jason for the first time ever, reconnecting with her nephew. Claude is drawn to protect her because of her importance to his sister Claudine. And of course, the return of Eric’s maker and sibling, which plays havoc with Sookie’s blood bond with him since they seem to be all tuned to the same frequency! The only small problem is that I never factored Pam into the blood bond before now.

As I said, despite the million miles an hour speed of the plot, and the multiple twists and turns, I enjoyed Dead In The Family immensely. I actually found it to be one of the strongest novels of the series. Sookie’s where I like her…with Eric. But she’s not dependent on him and she’ll do her own thing, like taking her male cousin Claude in to live with her, even if it upsets him.

Oh, and I loved the scene where Sookie and Pam take out two vampires intent on ambushing them on a roadside. I really do adore the pastel shaded Pam and her caustic tongue!

Highly recommended. I do take on board some of the less enthusiastic reviews I’ve read, but at the same time, there’s a deep connection to the characters in this series that has me invested in their survival. Even the obligatory Bill Compton part – he’s been virtually written out by this stage – but Harris still finds time for him. It was nice to get a little bit more character background for Bill and even for Eric via his maker.

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