Fiction: “Living Dead in Dallas” by Charlaine Harris

I finally got True Blood‘s first season through Netflix — after Lost and the adorably awesome The Middleman, I figured, “let’s jump on the next television bandwagon!” The first season is essentially the plot of Dead Until Dark, with some extra characters and weird shit thrown in.

Maybe, someday, I’ll write an in-depth essay about how the TV series differs from the book(s), and why I think that makes the TV series better, but today isn’t that day.

Tomorrow ain’t lookin’ good either.

Living Dead in Dallas picks up a couple of months (?) after Dead Until Dark. Sookie and Vampire Bill are dating and everyone’s happy, except Sam, the poor shapeshifter boss of Sookie who is kind of in love with her. Through an arrangement between Bill and his boss, Eric, the Vampire Sheriff of Area 5 (Vampire Louisiana), Sookie uses her telepathic talents whenever Eric demands it. So she and Bill are on their way to Shreveport when they have a fight about something that’s not important and she storms out of his car and she meets up with a maenad who almost kills her dead with a swipe of her poisoned claws. When Bill rescues* catches up with her, they hightail it over to Eric’s bar and she has a transfusion, and then they need to go meet up with the vampire clan in Dallas.

Before this, Lafayette** ends up dead in Det. Andy Bellefleur’s car. But that mystery gets put completely on the back burner while Sookie and Bill are in Dallas, trying to figure out what happened to some vampire’s brother who is missing, and they (and when I say “they,” I mean “Sookie”) infiltrate the Fellowship of the Sun church/religious gathering to discover what’s going on. When they figure out everything and Sookie almost dies at the hands of the Fellowship but doesn’t and the brother is found again, Sookie, Bill and Eric (who showed up to make sure everything went to plan in Dallas) are at a vampire party that gets shot to shit by the Fellowship. Bill feeds on and kills a Fellowship member, which pisses Sookie off, so she hightails it back to Bon Temps without him.

At this point, without Bill, Sookie attempts to figure out who killed Lafayette. It involves Eric and a near-orgy, and that pesky maenad who showed up about two hundred pages back but was never mentioned again.

And that’s why this book is only getting 2 stars. I really enjoy the characters of the series, and I adore the personal relationships and societal norms explored in True Blood (the gory stuff, not so much — I’ll get into it another time). But when you’re writing a mystery novel, it’s important to not forget about the mystery. I mean, while Sookie and Bill were in Dallas, there was no mention whatsoever of Lafayette. But that was the first mystery introduced in the book — why wouldn’t that concern Sookie, even while she’s out of town? And there was no real resolution with the Fellowship thing, either — after the house gets blow’d up, Sookie just leaves. Bill mentions that they’ll be dealing with the Fellowship more (meaning, more books), but that’s not the same. At least Kinsey Millhone wraps her stories up at the end of the book.

* This is what I love about Sookie: she’s blonde, and petite, but she kicks major ass for not being a supernatural person (telepathy bedamned). When was the last time, in vampire pop culture, when we saw a non-supernatural girl be able to take care of herself around vampires? You really don’t want to say ‘Bella Swan’ here, folks – you don’t want to open up that can of worms. Sookie doesn’t need a man to take care of her – in fact, she’s stormed away from Bill when he’s pissed her off a few times now. She speaks her mind (because her thoughts are important too, not just the thoughts she can hear from others) and holds her men-friends to standards up to which they may not be able to measure. But in the end of everything — True Blood or elsewhere — Sookie Stackhouse is a woman perfectly capable of taking care of herself.

I think this illustrates my point nicely:

“If anything happens to me,” Bill said, “you should go to Eric.”

“You’ve said that before,” I told him. “If anything happens to you, I don’t have to go to anyone. I’m my own person. I get to make up my mind about what I want to do. You’ve got to make sure nothing happens to you.” [291]

** For fans of the TV show: I’m pretty sure this doesn’t actually happen in the show. I just finished season 1 last night and have season 2’s first two discs waiting for me, but I’m pretty sure Lafayette ends up okay. If he doesn’t, I’ll stop watching, because he’s my favorite.

Grade for Living Dead in Dallas: 2 stars


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