Dead until Dark, By Charlaine Harris - Book Review
by Anca Antoci
Author: Charlaine Harris
Amazon: 4.60 (buy)
Our review: 5.00 (read)
It all started with one night’s insomnia that kept me flipping channels way past midnight. A show just started on HBO so I settled there for a while hoping for something worth watching. Boy, let me tell you I was not disappointed! It was the pilot episode of True Blood. I was instantly hooked! As soon as it ended, I google it to find out more about this show and that’s how I found out about the books, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, written by Charlaine Harris. At that time, they had not been translated into Romanian and were not available in my country (they are now). Fortunately for me, the first book of the series, Dead until Dark was available on ebook, so I could instantly get my hands on it. Just like expected, the book was so much better than the show!
I loved this book immediately because it’s aimed at a more mature audience rather than other books I had read in the same genre, like Twilight by Stephanie Mayer. I find the vampires in this universe to be better developed, with hidden agendas and more well-rounded characters than their counterparts aimed at teenagers.
What I liked most is the way this book was plotted like a mystery. You throw in a couple of murders, set out an investigation combined with character development and the beginning of a love story, mix in plenty of tension, setbacks, and adventures, solve the murders in the end and you get a great book! I’m sure this was due to Mrs. Harris's previous experience with writing mystery books.
This being said, it is a fast-paced, action-packed novel that keeps you on your toes. There were very few dull moments if any. If there was something I didn’t like I’d say it was the murderer. At the end of the book when the killer is revealed, although it’s no one you anticipate, it feels a bit meh. But to be honest, I didn’t read the book to find who the murderer is, that’s just a subplot.
The action is set in a fictional small town called Bon Temps, somewhere close to Shreveport, Louisiana. The story is written in the first person and follows Sookie Stackhouse, a 25-year-old barmaid at Merlotte’s, the local bar and grill. Sookie lives with her grandma and has a unique ability (telepathy) that she considers more of a curse. Here’s a nice quote on how she makes fun of it:
“My brother, Jason, came into the bar, then, and sauntered over to give me a hug. He knows that women like a man who’s good to his family and also kind to the disabled, so hugging me is a double whammy of recommendation.”
Long story short, she’s a telepath and can hear what everybody around her is thinking without the option of turning it off. That impairs her social life and leaves no room for a love life at all. When she meets Bill Compton, the first vampire who comes to Bon Temps she’s instantly attracted to him because she can’t hear his thoughts and she finds this soothing. Sookie’s thoughts on that:
“Not one man in a million would have allowed me the time without speaking. I opened my mind, let my guard down completely, relaxed. His silence washed over me. I stood, closed my eyes, breathed out the relief that was too profound for words.”
Trying to put her ability to good use she enlists his help to investigate a couple of murders. That gets them both in a lot of trouble and it's fun to see how they get through these misadventures.
Sookie has some of the best lines and her snarky side shines through:
“Eric appeared to be counting my eyelashes. I tried to keep my gaze on my hands, to indicate modesty. I felt power tweaks kind of flow over me and had an uneasy feeling Eric was trying to influence me. I risked a quick peek, and sure enough, he was looking at me expectantly. Was I supposed to pull off my dress? Bark like a dog? Kick Bill in the shins? Shit.”