Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
This book was recommended by my friends Karen, Jill, and Elyse, who are all huge fans of paranormal fiction. It's the first book in the Southern Vampire series, the books behind the hugely popular HBO (TV) show True Blood, which I tried watching once or twice but couldn't get into. However, after reading Dead Until Dark, I'm willing to give it another try.
Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in a small-town bar in northern Louisiana, and - well, Sookie's a little different. She has this ability to "hear" what people are thinking, and all those unwanted voices have taken their toll on her. People think she's a little bit loony. She can't get too close to guys because she can hear what they're thinking and usually it has to do with how she looks or . . . well, you can imagine.
Vampires now live openly in society, in part thanks to a blood-like product they can drink instead of human blood. Sookie hasn't met a vampire yet - at least until the opening scenes of Dead Until Dark. Then, one walks into the bar. She notices him immediately, not only because of his looks but because she can't hear his thoughts. After saving him from a couple of evil-doers, Sookie befriends Bill the vampire and soon gets caught up in the vampire world.
In the meantime, a couple of women in the area are murdered. Both of them were known for having relationships with vampires and, well, let's just say they're not the most ladylike of Southern belles. Turns out that Sookie's brother Jason has a "history" with both of them - and unfortunately for Jason, there are videotapes to prove these, um, relationships. Jason's a very attractive road construction worker who never lacks for female companionship. This also makes him a prime suspect, of course.
You can predict a few things. One, Jason isn't the murderer. Two, Sookie and Bill the vampire fall in love. Three, there are lots of people who don't like that Sookie and Bill the vampire have fallen in love. The characters are interesting and culturally diverse. One particularly interesting character is Sam, the owner of the bar where Sookie works. He obviously has a thing for Sookie . . . and strangely enough, she's never read his thoughts, but that was her choice. Another character who can't be ignored is Eric, a sort of leader of the vampires. I've also got my eyes on Lafayette, the cook. It will be interesting to see how these characters and relationships develop in future books. Although Bill the vampire is likeable enough, there's a certain aloofness about him, and a certain tension between Sookie and the other two.
I was pleasantly surprised with Dead Until Dark. It hooked me from the first few pages. Charlaine Harris must really be a Southerner, because she totally grasps the essence of place she's writing about. I know about these things, since I'm a Southerner - and I look forward to reading more.