Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
Sookie Stackhouse #11
Ace 2012 (2011)
Mass Market Paperback
It’s no coincidence that Sookie always seems to be around when trouble strikes – these days, it’s coming after her, specifically, even when she doesn’t realise it at the time. First a fire bomb is hurled through the window at Merlotte’s during her shift, then a gang of men turn up hyped up on vampire blood. Turns out Debbie Pelt’s insane younger sister Sandra is out of jail and gunning for Sookie with everything she’s got, and there’s no one around anymore to hold her in check.
Meanwhile her vampire boyfriend Eric, the Sheriff of Area 5 in which Sookie lives, continues to have his own problems with Victor, the vampire who manages the whole state and more, a regent for their king. Victor’s doing everything he can to squeeze Eric and make life difficult for him – to provoke him, ideally, into an attack so Victor can get rid of him altogether. Now Victor is refusing to let Pam change over her lover, Miriam, who’s dying of cancer and has little time left.
And Sookie’s newest housemates, her fairy relatives Claude and Dermot, seem to have an ulterior motive in moving in with her, and Sookie’s not entirely sure whether she should trust them or not. With Eric and Pam now seriously plotting a way to kill Victor for good, and Sandra sending people to kill her, Sookie’s got her hands full. Worse, Eric’s keeping a secret from her which could change everything for Sookie, as she learns about a new queen and an old promise. With all these new complications, Sookie still manages to find time to clear out her attic, discover an old letter addressed to her from her grandmother, and host a baby shower.
Wow are we really up to book eleven in this series already?! I would never have guessed there were so many – perhaps because some stand out a lot more than others. This wasn’t quite a stand-out novel but it was much more exciting and interesting than the previous book. I always enjoy them regardless, because I love Harris’ style – Sookie’s voice – and the combination of daily routine, paranormal politics, danger, mystery and romance. I find it very easy to settle into Sookie’s storytelling, her narration, and there’s so much going on in the details that they’re much more satisfying books than a lot of other Urban Fantasy.
While this had more plot than the previous book, Dead in the Family – which was one of the “filler” books – it still lacked one of the high-octane plots of some of the earlier books. I actually kept forgetting about Sandra – in fact I couldn’t remember her at all, from previous books! – but I mean I kept forgetting about the danger she posed. I just couldn’t quite take her seriously, even though I should have.
I was more tense about the situation with Victor, who’s a real bastard and definitely a serious threat. But as far as plots go, it wasn’t really central to the story. In fact, nothing was central, it is a story made up of smaller plots, side issues, more character development, and a progression of on-going plot lines. This isn’t a negative, just an observation. It doesn’t mean it lacked cohesion, tension or excitement – Harris is good at keeping things tight and on track. She doesn’t seem to forget details or contradict herself. Yet there was also a lack of energy in this instalment which isn’t typical of the series. Could Harris be winding down?
In particular, I found the romance between Sookie and Eric to be, well, not really there. Where was the passion of previous books? The tug-of-war that was always so entertaining between them. Sookie says she loves him – and does something rather serious to find out the truth of those feelings – and yet I didn’t feel it. She came across as almost indifferent, and her tendency to treat Eric as an irritating young relative wasn’t funny anymore, just … off. Likewise, what with all the problems in Eric’s life, I didn’t buy into his feelings either. Sure he’s a kind of alien and I don’t expect him to behave like a “regular” romantic hero, but the chemistry that’s usually between them just wasn’t there. It was hugely disappointing, and rather sad.
As a story that continues to flesh out this interesting world that Harris has constructed, it’s a good one, and there is some excitement and one very tense, danger-riddled scene at Fangtasia; it opens some new doors and closes others. But in terms of characters and the “human” side of the story, it wasn’t Harris’ best. I still really enjoy the books, and this was no exception, but it didn’t really go anywhere – except, maybe, in the Victor storyline – and the “Bill spectre” loomed large again. I just would have thought that by now, eleven books in, I would know Sookie better than this, and have an idea of what her future goals and plans are – does she want a full-time relationship? Marriage even? Kids? Her life seems stalled at the moment, especially dating vampires and other supernatural creatures, and it starting to feel a bit depressing. I’d like to see her progress in her life, in some way – rather than see her constantly be a kind of plaything for vampires or a useful tool for the “supes”, I’d love to see her do something for herself, something that shows how she’s grown and what direction she wants to take her life. Because loving a vampire, that’s a life that really isn’t going to go anywhere.
“Harris has the rare gift of being able to keep the plot and characters in a series as fresh and inviting as they were in the first outing, and this book is no exception. [...] It is an absolute page turner.” Well Read Wife
“This book is not Charlaine Harris at her best. It was not only inferior to other books in the Sookie Stackhouse series, but I would go so far as to say that none of the characters “behaved” like they have in the previous books. [...] Harris’s trademark humor is sorely missing in action. The plot is rife with rehashes from previous books. I could almost hear Harris yawning as she wrote the book.” Rhapsody in Books
“I seemed to enjoy this instalment a bit better than the previous two (maybe because it was a nice time-out book to read in the middle of exam study) but I still get the feeling that the plot is going stale and Charlaine Harris is desperately trying to make unsuccesful attempts to keep it alive.” Beagle Book Space
“It must be hard to maintain the same level of awesome throughout such a long series, but I do love that more information and backstory regarding Sookie’s personal history is revealed in Dead Reckoning. [...] While I didn’t absolutely love this book, I could see some of the elements that I used to love about the series in Dead Reckoning.” Fluttering Butterflies
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