Review: Dead in the Family

Dead in the Family Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I fell in love with Charlaine Harris and her Southern Vampire series long before Twilight filled the vampire fiction bandwagon to overflowing. Unlike many of the readers currently enjoying this series, I had been reading for some time when Ms. Harris announced that the story concept was going to be developed into a television show called True Blood, and I’m in an even smaller minority when I stake out my claim as someone who does not like the TV series at all, despite – or perhaps because of – my fondness for the books.

(It seems somewhat pertinent at this point to mention that Sookie is only my second favorite of Harris’s heroines – if you want a fun mystery/action/romance series with a strong, complex heroine but aren’t big on the paranormal, try Shakespeare’s Landlord.)

I unabashedly enjoy Harris’s books. If you pay attention to these things – and when I’m pleasure reading, I rarely do – they’re not fantastically written. Just listen to one of them on audiobook and you’ll catch the roughness around the literary edges. Fortunately, they’re not intended as great works of literature but rather as tickets to escapism, accompanied by unforgettable female leads. The Southern Vampire series focuses on Sookie Stackhouse, a small-town southern girl with the (un)fortunate ability to read minds. Her gift drags her into strange company and stranger situations as the world grapples with the existence of vampires and weres in their midst.

Dead in the Family is the newest installment in a series that I feared had gone off the rails in the prior installment. Everything in the last book – heck, the last two books, if I’m being fair – was painted in day-glo crazy. I’d been beginning to worry that Harris was writing for her True Blood fans rather than her Southern Vampire fans – understandable, given the profit margins, but still quite sad.

Then DitF came along, and that small part of my brain that worries about such things feels much better now. This book starts off as thick and slow as a condensating glass of sweet tea on an Louisiana afternoon as Sookie recovers from the traumatic events of the last book. When the action picks back up, it delicately knits together all of the crazy (inter-vampire politics? insane fairies? governmental anti-werewolf conspiracies?) into something that fits nearly seamlessly into the world Harris originally created. The focus is much less on romance and sex than on intrigue and the tricky process of deciding who – if anyone – Sookie can trust.

This book consumed the better part of a rainy afternoon for me, and I recommend it very much to anyone who has fallen in love – and maybe even out of love, a bit – with Sookie and her life.

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