Sixth novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Definitelty Dead, sees Sookie head off on yet another trip. This time, it’s Louisiana, and she’s got the unpleasant task of winding up her cousin Hadley’s estate.
It’s here that Charlaine Harris makes her first major faux pas in the Southern Vampire Mysteries – she fails to tells us the backstory to Hadley becoming a vampire and being killed by a jealous lackey of the Queen of Louisiana. There’s a reason for this, of course. It was already covered in a short story Harris wrote. No comfort to me though, because I only found that out later, after I’d read the short story compilation A Touch Of Dead.
Nevertheless, the reader is wrong-footed by this obscure storyline developing, and I’d say it’s partially responsible for some of the negative reviews Definitely Dead has received.
Sookie is now dating the weretiger Quinn, who seems like a solid, dependable guy and who says ‘babe’ a lot. She gets word from Sophie Anne Leclerq’s lawyer that her cousin Hadley has left all her worldly belongings to her and that she must travel to Louisiana to sort things out. Her neighbour and ex-lover Bill Compton offers to go along to help her. But after one murder attempt on her already, Sookie is on high alert and suspicious even of Bill. She’s got good reason to be.
But it’s another action packed Sookie book, so we get a look into the lives of the Louisiana vampires. Sookie gets roped into attending the Queen’s strategic marriage to Peter Threadgill. She meets Amelia Broadway, a young witch who owns the apartment block Hadley once lived in. She also discovers Jake Purifoy, one of Quinn’s employee’s, who has been changed into a vampire and whose reawakening almost sees the untimely death of Sookie and Amelia.
And this one deserves a paragraph all of its own: Eric forces Bill Compton to reveal the real reason he moved back to Bon Temps. Bill had been sent on an errand by Sophie Anne to watch over Sookie. Although the relationship developed rather organically from there, Sookie is appalled that Bill’s intentions toward her came from a business arrangement with the Queen of Louisiana. She’s devastated, and feels like the relationship was a sham. Taking her cues from werewolf custom, she abjures Bill, something that will last well into the next few novels.
To cap it all off, Sookie and Quinn end up captured and fighting for their lives in a swamp at the hands of the seriously deranged Pelt family. Eventually gaining the upper hand on their captors, Sookie confronts the Pelts and tells them exactly what happened to Debbie (she shot Debbie in the face, in self defence). They accept that she had no choice and agree to leave Sookie alone.
This book, perhaps more than any of the others, doesn’t stand on its own very well – it relies heavily on what goes before and leads on to the events in the next novel, All Together Dead. As Open Book Society suggests, it’s more of a conduit between novels, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.
I’m a little confused at this point about where Sookie stands romantically. OK, Bill’s definitely out of the equation. But Sookie’s just rebounding from a promising relationship with an amnesiac Eric and now she’s involved with Quinn. I like Quinn a lot though, a fierce weretiger who can offer Sookie a semblance of normality. He’s like Alcide, but upgraded. But what about Eric?
Having already read the other books in the series, there’s a discrepancy here that I’ve only just noticed. Later books will introduce the character of Hunter, Hadley’s human son who she had before being turned a vampire. Now, I appreciate that nothing about Hadley was conventional, but surely she’d have wanted her belongings to go to her son rather than Sookie? It would have given the boy a memento of his mother and possibly some money to secure his future.
Regardless of that (though it’s funny that Harris credits her newly hired continuity team in a later book), Definitely Dead remains an action-packed addition to the series. And every book in the series tends to move Sookie’s story on to some degree. I will admit though, that this is part of what I consider a slump in the series. The next book provides starts to pull out of that slump and the most recent two books really raise the stakes for Sookie and make the fact that she’s a fragile human in a violent, supernatural world more tangible. The bottom line? It you’re committed to this series, you have to read it, for completeness if nothing else.