From Dead to Worse

Charlaine Harris
2008, Urban Fantasy
Ace, $24.95, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0441015891
Part of a series

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Subtle

In the interests of full discloser, I'm a fan of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries, and with the exception of the previous installment, I've enjoyed it in its entirety. After the disappointment of All Together Dead, though, I wasn't sure if Harris had jumped the shark, or as the kids say these days, nuked the fridge. I'm pleased to write that with From Dead to Worse, the author redeemed herself. This one's filled with Sookie-style, wry, Southern humor, intrigue aplenty among various vampire and werewolf factions, and the introduction of a previously unknown member of Sookie's family whose appearance provides some after-the-fact backstory about her telepathic skill.

After the bloodbath in Las Vegas that occurred near the end of All Together Dead, Sookie's tried to get her life back in order. She alternates between worry and anger that she's not heard from her weretiger boyfriend Quinn, continues to be plagued by Tanya, the annoying woman once hired by the Van Pelt family, and her former BFF Arlene is even closer these days to the Fellowship of the Sun, a group determined to exterminate the vampires that "came out" during the Great Revelation six years earlier. Sookie's no-good brother Jason is having difficulties with his wife, and forces his sister to play a very unpleasant role as the story progresses. Amelia remains her roommate, and she's finally going to have to answer to a witch of a higher power for transforming her boyfriend Bob into a cat. Octavia is that witch, and she, Amelia, and Sookie form an alliance that allows Sookie to "watch" the spectral version of a werewolf friend's murder so as to determine who done it.

If all that weren't bad enough, a werewolf tries to kill Sookie when Eric drives her home from dinner with Niall Brigant, a powerful fae prince who turns out to be her great-grandfather. All of which are signs that a werewolf war is about to explode; several female werewolves are dead...or missing, and Sookie's close call must come from her pack connection. When the werewolf war does break out, Sookie is in the middle of it, and she gains new respect for Sam, her shapeshifting bartender boss at Merlotte's.

In the midst of this werewolf fight, trouble also comes to the local vampire community, and Sookie finds herself, once again, front and center as a powerful group of Las Vegas vampires decides to take on the Queen of Louisiana in her weakened state. As a showdown occurs at Sookie's house, Bill vows to protect her to the death, Eric points out to an out-of-town vampire scout that Sookie is more important than she seems, and during a very precarious negotiation, something that she dreaded eventually happening does...to say more would spoil things, but it points to a very interesting future indeed.

Amidst all of this excitement are wonderful Sookie moments, the things she thinks when she listens to others' thoughts in her head, or when she does things she knows are necessary because she was raised right by her grandmother. In a recent interview, Alan Ball, whose serialized version of Harris' books begins on HBO next month, remarked, "I'm from the South, and it was a very authentic look at the South. Indeed, Sookie's got a very Southern outlook on life, particularly her ingrained notions of hospitality and in how she is able to appear welcoming when she's feeling precisely the opposite. Nobody can really do this like a Southern girl.

Reading From Dead to Worse left me excited about the next book in the series, which I imagine will be published next May. There is resolution where one of our girl's "men" is concerned. Harris leaves the door wide open for one of the others and also gives one partial redemption in Sookie's eyes. This is not a romance series, and I don't read the books looking for it, but as a romance reader, it's always nice to watch relationships develop. More and more I'm rooting for...well, I'll keep that to myself. As for the sensuality rating, Harris wisely keeps things far from explicit. Sookie's not dead, but she's no slut either and there appears to be little danger of her going the way Anita Blake did.

If you're losing interest in Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries or have already lost faith in it, this is the just book to pull you back in, at least if your favorites match mine (Dead Until Dark, Club Dead, and Dead as a Doornail).

-- Laurie Likes Books

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