Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

[Although I don't reveal whodunit, this review contains spoilers.]

"The average woman would not be pondering how fast her date could kill her, but I'll never be an average woman."

Synopsis

Sookie begins dating an attractive weretiger named Quinn, but they're attacked every time they go out on a date. Debbie Pelt's parents and sister Sandra keep harassing Sookie about what she knows about Debbie's death, and eventually kidnap Sookie (and Quinn) in order to force the truth out of her.

In Bon Temps, Crystal Norris miscarries Jason's baby. Tanya Grissom, a shifter with ulterior motives, begins working at Merlotte's. Andy Bellefleur asks Sookie if his girlfriend Halleigh really loves him before proposing. Sookie uses her mind-reading power to save the life of Holly's six year-old, Cody, and Andy starts thinking that Sookie should be using her special talent to help him fight crime.

Sookie goes to New Orleans to finalize the estate of her late cousin Hadley, recently turned vampire and paramour of the Queen of Louisiana. While there, Sookie meets witch Amelia Broadway, and the two encounter Jake Purifoy, a were that Hadley turned into a vampire. Amelia and three other witches do an "ectoplasmic reconstruction" for the Queen in order to discover what happened between Hadley and Jake.

The novel concludes with a huge party at the Queen's to celebrate her marriage to Peter Threadgill, King of Arkansas. The party turns into a bloody conflict between the vampires of Arkansas and Louisiana, and another messy date for Sookie and Quinn. Andre, the Queen's closest vampire associate, tells Sookie that she has fairy blood, and must have a fairy in her family tree.

Review

This installment is fast-moving and a lot more focused. I liked it much better than book five. And I'll readily admit that Quinn is one big reason why. The other is Amelia Broadway.

I don't claim to know what Charlaine Harris intended, but Quinn appears to be the second (or third, or fourth, if you count Sam and Calvin) attempt to pair Sookie with a shifter, and it's the most successful, so far. Quinn is an attractive character. He's a real gentleman, physically imposing and not just when he's a Bengal tiger, and he doesn't appear to have Alcide's unattractive emotional baggage or tendency to use people. Quinn certainly pays a stiff price for his interest in Sookie, since he is attacked in the streets, kidnapped along with her, and is her date at the vampire party that turns into a massacre. And yet, he manages to take it all in stride. He even helps her pack up Hadley's apartment. What a guy.

When I first read this book, I thought the Hadley stuff came out of nowhere. I later discovered that the story of Hadley's death and Sookie's first introduction to the Queen took place in a short story called "One Word Answer."

Even so, the Queen's story about her past and how she became a vampire was quite chilling as well as tragic, although the hidden jewelry wedding gift plot came right out of The Three Musketeers. And I enjoyed all of the Hadley fallout. Cleaning out someone's home and settling their estate is not fun (I've done it), but it was certainly enlivened by the introduction of witch Amelia Broadway, a character I immediately liked, and the wonderful "ectoplasmic reconstruction" of what happened to Jake Purefoy. (Although it would have been more powerful if it had been a reconstruction of Hadley's murder.) Amelia and Sookie are believable as friends, and Amelia is a much better friend than Arlene or Tara. I particularly loved Amelia turning her lover Bob Jessup into a cat.

Another thing that worked about this installment was Eric forcing Bill to confess that the Queen assigned him to seduce Sookie, which Sookie finds absolutely devastating. At the end of the book, Bill saves Sookie's life at the Queen's party massacre, and tells her he may have been on the Queen's errand but fell in love with her, anyway. But with the additional discovery that she has fairy blood that attracts vampires, Sookie can't help but feel that Bill and Eric, her first and only two lovers, never actually liked her for herself. This, of course, makes Quinn even more attractive to Sookie.

I also liked the Bon Temps segment where Sookie rushes to the elementary school when Holly's little boy Cody vanishes. With Andy's knowledge and permission, a concealed Sookie reads minds as the Bon Temps cops question people, and she finds the injured Cody in time to save his life. Andy has fantasies about forcing Sookie to solve every unsolved case and bring every criminal in the area to justice. And it's an interesting question. Is it what Sookie should be doing with her life? Why, and why not?

The death of Debbie Pelt is the plot that just won't go away. And that works for me. Sookie's feelings of guilt will never go away, either, even though all she did was defend herself. Even though it's (again) resolved, Sandra Pelt doesn't seem like the type that will listen to her father.

The supernatural world continues to expand. Sookie is told she has fairy blood by the Queen's closest associate, the frightening Andre, although where it came from is a mystery. Claudine reveals that she is working as a fairy godmother so that she can graduate to angel. We meet lawyer Mr. Cataliades and his niece Diantha, who are part demon. The shifter/were reproduction rules are clarified; it's not just the first child who is a fullblooded were, but the first child with a specific man. (A little less impossible.) And Jake Purifoy is a were who is turned into a vampire, in line with the hybrids on The Vampire Diaries.

Note that this review includes very little about Eric. That's because he's only in a couple of scenes in the book. Drat.

Bits and pieces:

-- The action takes place in March, shortly after the last book. Sookie's kitchen has been rebuilt and is nearly finished. Sookie met Bill "last year".

-- Claudine's twin brother Claude gets Sookie to help him do a romance novel cover photoshoot.

-- Pam tells Fangtasia's new bartender Felicia that she must go to Sookie and pre-emptively beg for mercy, since Sookie has a habit of killing off Fangtasia's bartenders. Hilarious.

-- Arlene has started attending Fellowship of the Sun meetings and is becoming outspokenly anti-vamp.

-- Alcide Herveaux is now dating a were named Maria-Star Cooper.

-- We're introduced to Cal Myers, a Shreveport detective who is also a were. We also visited the were bar, The Hair of the Dog.

-- We're also introduced to a shifter named Tanya Grissom, who is now working at Merlotte's.

-- New vampire characters in the Queen's entourage include Andre, Rasul, and brothers Sigebert and Wybert. There is also Jade Flower, who works for Peter Threadgill.

-- Most of the action takes place in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina happened right after the book was completed, and Harris decided not to rewrite it. I think this was the right decision; it would have completely changed the focus of the story. In later books, the fallout from Katrina is dealt with.

-- There is set up for the next book. The Queen wants Sookie to work for her at the upcoming vampire summit, and preparations are underway for the Bellefleur double wedding.

Television Series Notes

In the television series, Sookie discovered that Bill was assigned by the Queen to seduce her back at the end of season three, and of course, she discovers her fairy connection much sooner. Sophie-Anne Leclerq in the books is serious and strange, and really nothing like the Yahtzee-playing lunatic in the television series. And of course, the Queen is introduced in book six, but her television counterpart is killed at the end of season three.

In Closing...

My next book review of All Together Dead will be posted in a couple of weeks.

Again, important notice! After eleven books and so many seasons of the series, I have no idea what kind of spoiler limitations to put on the comments section under these circumstances -- so I'm not going to put any. It's a spoiler free for all! If you're new to the books and haven't seen all of the television series True Blood, reading the comments may, and probably will, spoil you. Read on at your own risk!
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

Harry Earle said...

Wow, I forgot that SO much happened in this book. Thanks for the summary and review Billie, it's made me want to reread it big time. I do like Quinn and always imagine him played by Dwayne Johnson, but hopefully they'll get a actor that can fill the character's massive shoes for True Blood.

Come to think of it, Quinn has a huge amount going for him. He is not only a gentleman, who took all that stuff in his stride, but he also has his own events company, has high enough standing in the were community to adjudicate a pack leader showdown, and he sounds like he could physically compete with Eric and Bill too. Can't wait to see what they do with him in True Blood, although what with Alcide, Bill and Eric all very much in the picture at the end of last Season, maybe things won't get off the ground with TV Quinn for another 2 years.

There are a lot of different plots in this book that have no bearing on each other aren't there? The photoshoot and fairy scenes, the missing Cody, Debbie's family, and the vampire/witch stuff.

CrazyCris said...

I can't see any of this making it into the series except (hopefully) for the characters of Amelia and Quinn (yay!)...

Billie Doux said...

Hey, Harry -- like CrazyCris said, I'm having trouble seeing how they could possibly get any of this in the series. As cool as Quinn is, I keep thinking that they have Joe Manganiello and have underused him, and maybe any of the Quinn stuff will be shifted :) to Alcide. But hey, I don't know.

Juliette said...

I love Quinn, but if I were making the TV show, I'd leave him out and focus on Alcide. The TV could probably do with reminding viewers that Sam and Sookie are supposed to be attracted to each other as well...

I loved the ectoplasmic reconstruction, perfect combination of ghost story and crime drama! And there was a lovely, tragic moment where the normally cool Sophie-Anne saw Hadley and showed some emotion. That's what I'll miss most now that the TV series can't do this storyline (though I wonder if they'll kill Hadley off in some other way - which might lead to Sookie getting stuck with Hunter... hmm...)