Dead to the World

Dead Until Dark

Living Dead in Dallas

Dead As a Doornail
by Charlaine Harris
(Ace, $22.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-441-01279-5
I discovered Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series last year and have read the previous four in the series. The end of Dead to the World (number four in the series) had me eagerly anticipating the fifth installment, Dead As a Doornail, so as you might imagine, I was delighted to see it in my latest batch of review books. However, while I enjoyed a number of aspects of the story, I was a little disappointed overall.

The story starts with Sookie’s brother experiencing a significant change in his life. At the same time, someone in Bon Temps is shooting shapeshifters. When one of Sookie’s friends is injured by the sniper and her brother is suspected, Sookie tries to find out who is behind the attacks.

Unlike some series that don’t provide enough back story, Dead As a Doornail provides a wealth of background that helps readers follow the action. This will prove helpful for new readers, but at times the story slows down because of all the exposition. Providing too much vs. too little background is a fine line, and for the most part, Harris navigates that line well.

The strongest part of the book, arguably, is the character development. Jason’s life takes a dramatic turn as he becomes a shapeshifter. (Since this is revealed in the first chapter and on the back cover, I don’t consider it a spoiler.) Sookie’s relationships with werewolf Alcide and vampire Eric see some interesting changes, though they are likely to be more interesting to readers who have read the four previous books.

Speaking of relationships, this is a good time to mention that Dead As a Doornail doesn’t include a conventional romance; in addition, the PG-13 rating is more for violence than sexuality.

However interesting the characters, the mystery isn’t quite as successful. Several threads are at work in this book, and it takes a while for the action to pick up. The lack of urgency about the mystery in the first part of the story is surprising, especially in light of the very real danger the sharpshooter poses to Sookie’s brother as well as many of her friends. Focusing on one or two threads might have upped the stakes earlier in the story.

My main impression once I finished reading is that this feels like a transitional book. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I’m certainly anticipating book six, which comes out next year. But Dead As a Doornail isn’t the best place for readers who want to try the series to start. Instead, start with the first book, Dead Until Dark, and read the rest in order.

--Alyssa Hurzeler

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