Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dead To The World

Dead To The World
Author: Charlaine Harris
Ace, 2004
291 pages

The more I read this series, the more I'm amazed by the imagination of Charlaine Harris. Admittedly, I'm a little late coming to the paranormal mystery party. Or paranormal romance, or whatever this genre is called. Unlike my friends Karen, Jill, Elyse, and Sandy T., I haven't read a whole lot of this stuff. I resisted reading the Sookie Stackhouse series (also known as the Southern Vampire series, of which Dead To The World is Book #4) until it became absolutely obvious that if I wanted to truly understand the HBO series True Blood, these books are required reading.

This time our favorite small-town waitress - Sookie - is feeling a little lonely and a lot angry after her vampire beau Bill takes off for South America on another mysterious assignment. Things hadn't been quite right between them since he up and left her for his old girlfriend (and maker, the vampire Lorena), so it's all strange. Meanwhile, Sookie's friend Tara Thornton (who is not at all like the Tara character in the TV series, I'm learning), has a strangely alluring new friend named Claudine, and Claudine happens to be turning up in a lot of places lately. And Sookie's "horndog" brother Jason has taken up with a mysterious young woman from a clannish community way out in the sticks.

Our story begins early on New Year's Day as Sookie's driving home after a long night of working at Merlotte's Bar when she sees a naked man running down the deserted rural road. Turns out, it's Eric Northman, the vampire sheriff of Area 5 - Bill's "boss." But Eric isn't acting like Eric. He's scared, and he has no memory of who he is, who Sookie is . . . nothing. He's like a blank slate. Sookie finds herself strangely attracted to this new, innocent Eric. Let that be considered foreshadowing. :-)

Being the good Samaritan she is, Sookie takes Eric back to her house and tries to help him. As she digs into the mystery of what's happened to Eric, she learns that he's had a spell cast on him by a group of evil witches who are trying to hone in on his business dealings. It looks like the witches have declared war on the vampires - and the witches are winning. If the vampires have any chance at all, Sookie will have to enlist the aid of her new werewolf friends (including Alcide from Book 3 and the new were-character, Colonel Flood, who for some reason reminded me of Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino). She'll also need to find some good witches, which is kind of ironic, since she had no idea witches actually existed. Especially in rural Louisiana.

In the meantime, Jason Stackhouse mysteriously disappears, and the only clues to his disappearance are one of his footprints, and blood that turns out to originate from . . . a panther? The whole town is out looking for Jason. When Sookie learns that Jason's new girlfriend's family are "shifters", she's certain they know something. She makes the trip way out to the country to visit the family, and receives a very interesting proposition from their "packmaster", a man named Calvin.

It's been nearly a year since Sookie first learned about the Supernatural world, and she's learned about the existence of vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and now, human witches with real magical powers. She'll also find out who - or should I say what - the mysterious Claudine is. (I'm being purposefully vague about Claudine in hopes that she'll appear more in the next book. Let's hope. I can tell you, though, she's NOT Maryann in the True Blood series, which is what I initially suspected given her relationship with Tara.) What was it I said earlier about Harris having an imagination? Dead To The World is the most imaginative book so far, I think.

I must confess to being spellbound (ha ha) by this series. I really would like to rush through the remaining six books (so far), but I'm restraining myself.

*****

Previous books in the series that I've reviewed:
Book 1 - Dead Until Dark
Book 2 - Living Dead In Dallas
Book 3 - Club Dead