Reviewed in the United States on January 25, 2005
Sookie Stackhouse, the attractive, telepathic barmaid from Bon Temps, LA, is back in "Living Dead In Dallas," Book 2 of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series. Sookie's heretofore lonely life as a single is no more. She is in love and the feeling is reciprocated. Folks in her backwater northern Louisiana town always treated her as if she had a disability. They made her feel ashamed of her "gift," the ability to read other people's minds. What were they thinking?? The major disadvantages to her telepathy are her inability to keep the voices at bay, even though she has learned to shield herself somewhat. She had also been unable to have a relationship until recently. How can you fall in love when you know everything your boyfriend is thinking? Boyfriend Bill is just what she needed...almost. Tall, dark and very handsome, albeit very pale, Bill Compton is a vampire who lived, and died, during the Civil War. Sookie had always wanted to meet a vampire, since vampirism became legal a few years before the novel begins. I don't think she envisioned herself coming home to one at night though. The two met in Merlotte's Bar, while she was working. She served him bottled synthesized Type O Positive, and it was love at first sight. (Did you think I'd actually write, 'love at 1st bite?'). There is another important element in the couple's relationship - one which definitely makes for success. Sookie cannot hear Bill's thoughts, which he thoughtfully blocks from her. Peace and quiet at last!
Bill is doing his best to assimilate into the general human population. He dines on bottled blood rather than hunt, and is making human friends in Bon Temps, especially among the town's Descendants of the Glorious Dead Society. After all, he is a war vet. He even involves himself with the local vampire self-governing body in Shreveport, to gain their protection for Sookie and himself. Bill has been made Vampire Investigator of Area 5 - their general neighborhood. In the politically complex vampire society, Sookie, as Bill's girlfriend, is now obligated to utilize her telepathic powers for Area 5 Nest's purposes.
One early morning, while she is on day shift, Sookie finds a dead friend's body in a cop car outside of Merlotte's. A few evenings later, on the way to Shreveport with Bill, she is attacked and almost killed by a murderous Maenad accompanied by a feral razorback. Bill rushes her to the Fangtasia, a vampire bar, owned by Eric, Master Vampire and kingpin of the local power structure. Sookie has been poisoned by the Maenad and is dying. The only way to save her is to drain her blood and replace it with a human-blood transfusion. Eric and his gang happily suck out the bad blood and inject the new. Eric then expects Sookie and Bill to do a job for him, quid pro quo. It seems that the vampires of Area 6, (Dallas), have a problem they are unable to resolve on their own. One of their number has gone missing, and the Dallas leader thinks a fanatic cult, a quasi-religious group of vampire haters, The Fellowship of the Sun Center, might have kidnapped him. Eric wants to loan Sookie to the Dallas vampires as a consultant. They could use her telepathic gifts about now. Sookie does not relish the idea, and refuses to travel without Bill. So it's plane tickets to Dallas for two - Sookie's first flight, and a suite at the luxurious Silent Shore Hotel, which caters to the undead - coffin space in the cellar and everything!
The story turns into a roller-coaster ride of an adventure from this point, with one surprise after another and much action of the preternatural sort. Sookie is almost kidnapped from the moment she steps off the plane - and that is only the beginning. She also discovers and interacts with supernatural beings she had thought only mythical...and some of these critters are downright nasty.
"Living Dead In Dallas" is plotted like a mystery novel, in spite of the other-worldly elements. There's a corpse. Then there's a missing undead person. Lots of investigation takes place, along with too many mishaps and adventures to count. And finally, almost all is pulled together and resolved. Sookie's development as a person takes center stage in the storyline, along with the development of her relationship with Bill. And it looks like sexy Master Eric is going to play a greater role in future novels. Yummy!
Author Charlaine Harris's writing is excellent, as is her sense of humor. There are few unnecessary elements or ploys here. The characters are wonderful and well developed. Sookie Stockhouse is a real sweetie, though somewhat naive. She is a smalltown gal, after all. However, she is growing fast and I look forward to watching her develop. Her adventures are dark, but her self-deprecating manner helps to lighten things up. Unlike some, I preferred "Dead Until Dark," Book One to this one. The writing seemed tighter and the pace was more consistent. This is not as much of a page-turner. Don't get me wrong though. It is just the difference between a 4 and 5 stars rating. I enjoyed the novel - and if you like Sookie, you will also.