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Living Dead in Dallas

August 20, 2010


Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
published by Ace Books, March 26, 2002

Sookie is working at Merlotte’s Bar, in a small Louisiana town,  when Deputy Sheriff Andy Bellefleur staggers in, drunk as a skunk. He’s in no condition to drive home, but when he comes back to pick up his car the next morning, someone has left a corpse in it. With no viable clues pointing to the perpetrator — only the rumor that the victim had been to a “sex party” that night — Andy is the prime suspect. And he’s not the only one with problems.

Working full time in a bar is not an easy life, but for 26-year-old Sookie Stackhouse, it’s doubly difficult. She’s a telepath, and she’s spent most of her life learning to shield her mind from other people’s thoughts. At moments, she lets her guard down, and she has to “hear” all the lustful and spiteful thoughts bar patrons are afraid to say aloud. That’s one of the things that attracted her to her boyfriend, Bill, who is at times sexy and sweet and at other times dark and creepy. She can’t read Bill’s thoughts because he’s not human — he’s a 150-year-old vampire.

Vampires have always existed, but they’ve only been out of the closet — or out of the coffin — for a short time. Since the Japanese invented a form of synthetic blood that can conveniently be heated in a microwave, vampires have come out of hiding. But they are still a very different race, with their own hierarchical system of rule, their own laws, and their own ways of doing things.

Sookie has agreed to use her telepathic abilities to help the vampires of Dallas, who are struggling with an unsolved mystery of their own. This leads her on a strange adventure that includes being surrounded by vengeful vampires, visiting a violent, fanatical church, and an encounter with a shapeshifter.

Living Dead in Dallas, the second in Charlaine Harris’s popular Southern Vampire series, is an unusual mix of genres. It has elements of a hot bodice-ripper romance, a genre I actively dislike. It didn’t really work for me as a mystery. There weren’t enough clues and intriguing possibilities strewn throughout the book — the solutions to the mysteries just kind of presented themselves. And the vampire lore, in itself, is not all that compelling.

So why did I enjoy this novel? While none of these elements, by itself, worked for me, the combination of all of it, woven together by Charlaine Harris’s gift for storytelling and edgy but good-hearted sense of humor, makes a great read. Her unique take on vampires, and their ambivalent, often salacious, relationships with humans, is hilarious. The story, with all its twists and turns, is thoroughly unique. And while I never fell in love with the Bill/Sookie pairing, it does have elements of a real relationship. And this author’s world, populated with vampires, shapeshifters, a maenad,  and — apparently — werewolves, seamlessly joined to the world we know, seems believable and is a lot of fun.

I definitely recommend this novel, for imaginative, funny light reading, to folks who enjoy supernatural creatures.

Read More Reviews: Avid Book Reader; Rhapsody in Books; Fyrefly’s Book Blog

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2010 2:35 pm

    Exactly, Steph. As an example of it genre on its own, the novel’s pretty much trash. But the cocktail makes for addictive, fun reading, doesn’t it?

    • August 20, 2010 3:09 pm

      That’s a good way of putting it! 🙂 Thanks for turning me on to this book, not to mention getting me addicted to old episodes of True Blood. *LOL* What are friends for if not to provide a little smutty entertainment to each other’s lives?

  2. August 20, 2010 2:36 pm

    I meant *each* genre. Need more coffee. 😉

  3. August 21, 2010 10:16 am

    I love True Blood. I need to read these books. Trash, for once, is good.

    • August 21, 2010 2:03 pm

      True Blood is addictive, isn’t it? I’m glad I’m not the only mom who lets her teen watch that show. 😀 Sarah and I get grossed out by some of the stuff that happens on the show. But it’s like a train wreck — we can’t look away.

  4. August 21, 2010 2:16 pm

    Isn’t it strange how these books are crap and diamonds simultaneously? 🙂

  5. August 22, 2010 10:45 am

    Ah… I don’t really get it… I enjoyed this as well. 😀

  6. August 26, 2010 1:45 am

    I’ve been considering the idea of trying book number one. Just to see what I think… but it looks like this series are like chips: you can’t eat only one.

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