Charlaine Harris’s Dead As A Doornail

cover art for Dead As A DoornailY’know, life for Sookie Stackhouse just keeps getting more and more complicated. It’s hard enough being a telepathic barmaid in a small Louisiana town, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the past year, she’s been forced to deal with vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches, maenads, fairies and vicious cultists. Now her own brother is exploring his new status as a werepanther, courtesy of an accidental bite some time back. Worse yet, there’s a mysterious sniper on the loose, targeting the werecreature community, and no one’s safe from their night-time attacks. When Sookie’s shapeshifting boss is put out of commission for a few weeks, she’s forced to ask a favor of her friend/lover/ally, Eric, who heads up the vampires of Baton Rouge, which naturally puts her in even deeper with that crowd.

As if that wasn’t enough, Sookie’s friend Tara is hanging out with a particularly nasty vampire called Mickey, Sookie’s ex-boyfriend Bill (another vampire) is back in town, there’s a struggle for dominance in the local werewolf pack, and someone might just want Sookie herself dead as well.

I told you her life was complicated.

Now Sookie has to juggle obligations and ties to half a dozen different supernatural communities, only some of which (the vampires) are actually known to exist by the public, while keeping her own life in order. She has to clear her brother of any suspicion in the shootings, try not to get shot herself, navigate through the complicated dealings of the werewolves, balance debts and favors with the vampires, and still find time to shop for new shoes. What’s a girl to do?

I’ve been saying it all along: there’s no way that a southern vampire murder mystery/romance with a telepathic cocktail waitress should work, and yet the elements manage to come together rather nicely. Harris has an ear for dialogue and a way with making the storylines flow together, and the world she’s presented certainly has room for all the disparate elements involved. I continue to be intrigued by the fact that in Sookie’s world, the vampires have gone public (complete with vampire groupies, clubs, synthesized blood, and anti-vampire hate groups), while other supernatural races (such as werewolves/werepanthers/werefoxes/etc and fairies) hang back to see how it goes before deciding whether to reveal themselves or not. Sookie’s one of the few to know the truth about most of these things, whether she likes it or not. In fact, it’s her own ability (though many prefer to call it more of a disability) that makes her so useful. Sookie’s use of telepathy continues to move things along, as much a plot device as a character flaw.

But as much as I love this series (and I read Dead as a Doornail all in one day), there’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me. In this book alone, Sookie has to deal with interest from not one, not two, but FIVE guys. Whether she’s snogging one in the closet, fending off marriage proposals from another, rebuffing an ex-boyfriend over here, or playing hard to get with another, it seems as though she can’t turn around without someone else sidling up for a little action. I think I can say that this series has officially turned from “Southern vampire romance mystery” to “Southern vampire soap opera mystery” I hope things calm down later in the series, because right now, Sookie herself occasionally casts doubts as to her desirability, and when the point of view character has no idea why these men are sniffing around her . . . well, you start to wonder. So Sookie, please make up your mind, and use this baseball bat to firmly convince the others to back down. It’s pretty clear who you want, so act on it already.

I might also quibble at how quickly things seemed to wrap up at the very end. The resolution of one major subplot at an earlier point definitely felt rushed, as did the resolution of the other major subplot. Things hum along quite nicely, and then blam. I think Harris could have stretched it out a tiny bit longer.

Those are minor complaints. On the whole, Dead As A Doornail is another excellent installment to a highly enjoyable series. Charlaine Harris is one of those authors I recommend in the same breath as Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Rachel Caine, and Laurell K. Hamilton.

(Ace, 2005)