Dead Until Dark
Published 2001 260 pages
Sookie Stackhouse works as a waitress in a bar in Bon Temps, a small town in northern Louisiana. She lives a quiet life without much in it apart from her family and her job. She doesn’t date or have much of a social life because most of the inhabitants of Bon Temps think that she is crazy. Sookie is not crazy but she is afflicted or gifted (depending how you look at it) with the ability to read minds.
Unable to stand the constant noise of other peoples thoughts that she usually has to listen to she has become fairly reclusive. Into her life comes the tall, dark and handsome Bill. Bill is just perfect for Sookie because she can’t hear his thoughts. Unfortunately Bill has an affliction of his own; he’s a vampire and over a hundred years older that Sookie.
Dating a vampire in small town rural America might be hard enough but when women who have been known to date vampires start being murdered it becomes a lot harder. When one of Sookie’s coworkers is killed, swiftly followed by an attack on her grandmother, Sookie has to believe that she might be next. In an effort to stop her vampire boyfriend being arrested for the murders and to avoid being the murderer’s next victim herself, she starts to use her telepathic ability to try and find the killer.
I love this book, I’ve read it several times and every time it just seems to get better! I first found the Sookie Stackhouse books when I was living in small town rural deep south America and I was amased by how well the author, Charlaine Harris, managed to capture the feeling of small town life in the South. (Although in her small town America, vampires have come out of their coffins and are now recognized as legally dead people with rights.) I can really empathise with the character Sookie, in the way that she has an ordinary and fairly boring life but wishes to have something more interesting happen to her. I spend many nights working in a small town supermarket in the South wishing that something more exciting would happen to me!
Once Sookie meets the vampire Bill she gets her wish for an exciting life granted. Not only is he the most exciting thing to come into her life, she attracted to him and starts dating him. Sookie’s telepathic abilities make it impossible for vampire glamour to work on her so from the start she is interested in him for himself not because he has used his vampire mojo to hypnotise her. Their relationship is complicated because from the very start it is made plain that vampires are not human anymore. They don’t have the same moral code as humans and can be vicious, especially if they hang around other vampires and become distant from living among humans. Bill is trying to ‘mainstream’ which is the term vampires use when they try to live normal lives in a human community.
As well as Bill the story introduces several other vampires, including the vampire Eric who owns (surprise) a vampire night club in Shreveport and is the head vampire in the area. Eric is a character that is explored further in the following Sookie Stackhouse books.
Dead Until Dark is the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. The story is told in first person by Sookie. Sookie lives in an America where vampires really exist. In this book Sookie discovers that not only do vampires exist but her boss Sam is a shape shifter too. I think the thing that I like about this whole series is that the supernatural world of Sookie is slowly developed book by book because the reader finds out more about it as Sookie discovers that there is a whole other world out there to the one that she originally knew before she met Bill.
I also like the murder mystery element to this story too. In this book I was completely baffled as to who might have been committing the murders until the murderer was revealed in the exciting climax to the story. Charlaine Harris is one of the few writers who can write a murder mystery story where I don’t guess ‘who done it’ before I’m half way through the book. This is probably due to the practice that she has had writing crime stories. Before she wrote the Sookie novels she wrote several crime novels. (I would recommend the Shakespeare series to anyone who likes murder mystery stories set in small town America, there are no vampires in these books but once again the small town settings and characters are really good and couldn’t guess who committed the murders.)
To sum up Dead Until Dark I would say that it was a fast paced book that was a joy to read. Unlike some fantasy novels where the characters can be a bit one dimensional this book has great characters that have plenty of room to develop further in the later books in the series. The idea of small town supernatural America is quite original and throwing in a murder mystery element and romance with some good sex scenes (Charlaine Harris could teach Laurell K Hamilton a thing or two about writing a subtle sex scene) I think that this book has something in it to appeal to most female horror fantasy fans.
LoveVampires Review Rating:
You can read the first chapter of Charlaine Harris’s new Sookie Stackhouse book at her website. Visit Charlaine’s site.