Dead in the Water?

Well, Charlaine Harris just launched right into it. The beginning of Dead in the Family is no surprise – don’t worry.

Amelia, the witch, is moving out of Sookie’s house, back to New Orleans. A couple of references to Sookie’s injury ties back to the Fae War that ended the previous installment. Remember Eric, the vampire? Yup, thanks to a perfectly placed question by Amelia we know they’re still dating and the blood bond is as creepy and strong as ever. The most helpful paragraph was the one that listed everyone who had been killed: Claudine, the fairy cousin; her were brother’s friend Mel; her sister-in-law Crystal, too.
That might seem like a succinct, successful summation of what happened prior to page one but it was a smidge too vague. It’s been a bit of time between books and I have to admit I forgot a bit.
I kept going though. I’d always been satisfied before.
Sookie visits a lot of people. Her fairy cousin Claude shows up. She has dinner with her brother. She talks to Sam at work. She even visits Vampire Bill, her neighbor and ex-boyfriend, who isn’t feeling so well after getting hurt in the Fae War. A pack of weres shows up to use her property to run free during the full moon.
Not much is happening. And then a couple of things happen – Sookie and Pam kill assassins out to get them. Claude moves in. A were smells a dead body buried on her property so that means she needs to attend a pack meeting.
When I list these actions (plot points?), it kind of feels like something should be building up. Right? Everything felt so not tense or important.
Eric’s maker shows up with another vampire he turned. Some antics ensue but that action seemed removed from Sookie’s life. She bitches a lot about not hearing from him and when this threesome comes back to bite her in the ass toward the end, eh, okay, sure. I guess it all plays out logically.
Nothing felt new. Of course, the style and tone of the first person narrator was the same, as it should be. But Sookie wasn’t pushed far enough in Dead in the Family. There was one new mindset, one thought Sookie kept playing with that was heresy for her and it should have been exploited more.
She is starting to consider that killing someone is a viable option to handle a problem. Sookie has never thought this way before. There are a handful of sentences that demonstrate this. She seems worried about it at times, what does mean, etc. It gets lost in the shaman/pack meeting/magic juice plot line. When it appears again at the end, it wasn’t big enough. She made a choice and it just should have been a bigger decision. Sookie has been through so much and struggles with depression and anger. If she was ever going to toe that line of murder so close she almost loses herself, this story should have been it.
I still wonder about the magic of consuming one book after another in a series. I didn’t have the time to go back and reread the previous book and I felt that time lag as I read Dead in the Family. Would I have been more invested if I’d read it just after Dead and Gone? I don’t know. But I did feel that way with Bullet.
Now that I think about it, Harris and Hamilton consider their books as stand-alone novels. I’m beginning to disagree. They work better within the construct of a series. Like a soap opera, dropping out for a while and then coming back in can be very confusing and turn you off to the story. But watching everyday only makes you anticipate tomorrow. (Or Monday, in today’s case.)

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