Over at Casa D'Isidoro, 2008 was dubbed the Year of the Vampire. Last year, I finally read Interview with a Vampire, I caved to peer pressure and read the Twilight Saga, and I discovered The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. Better known as the Sookie Stackhouse books and the inspiration for the HBO drama True Blood, the Southern Vampire Mysteries chronicle the life of barmaid Sookie Stackhouse.
Life is hard for a telepath. Sookie Stackhouse can tell you all about it. But there are bigger problems at hand then knowing which of your neighbors is having an affair or which customer is checking out your butt. The world is still reeling three years after vampires ’came out of the coffin,’ revealing their existence after a Japanese company begins manufacturing synthetic blood. While society struggles to adjust, Sookie wants nothing more than to meet a vampire herself. Her wish is granted when Bill Compton, a vampire and her new neighbor, comes into the bar one night. But her fascination with her new undead neighbor frequently gets put on the backburner as trouble finds her.
In the first book, a string of violent murders sets her small town on edge. Things only get worse when her grandmother becomes one of the victims and her brother is listed as the prime suspect. In book two, Sookie is employed by the vampires of Dallas to investigate a missing vampire. In book three, Bill goes missing and Sookie, with the help of some other vampires and werewolves, has to save. This goes on for nine books and counting, each plot involving more and more of this vast, magical, and dangerous world which Charlaine Harris has created.
The Sookie Stackhouse books are most definitely easy reads, but they are surprisingly intense. Charlaine Harris tackles everything from prejudice and hate crimes to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in her novels and handles them all with sympathy, common sense, and humor. Among my favorite traits of these books are the characters especially the narrator. Sookie struggles with her gift, her morals, and her mortality; she wants to help people but she also wants her own life and freedom, something which she has to fight increasingly hard for. And told through her narration, the world seen through her eyes, there are no good guys in these books. Everyone is flawed and human, even when they aren’t. The vampires are struggling to reacclimate to human society and laws after doing what they’ve wanted for so long, some more easily than others. The werewolves are caught in perpetual lies as they have to hide what they are from their own families. The fairies are always at war with each other as they argue about their existence in relation to humans. And the humans are fighting to come to grips with a world very different from what they thought it was.
My only big complaint about the books is that the cast is often too large. It’s difficult with each progressing book to keep track of who’s who. Even more disappointing is that the massive cast often forces more central characters to the back ground. In some books, fan favorites Bill, Eric, and Pam are only voices on the phone or thought of by Sookie in passing. In the latest book, Dead and Gone, Bill Compton was never there. I know that I’m not the only reader to be irritated by this.
But never doubt that I am a fan of this series. Overall Charlaine Harris handles some very deep topics with surprising tact and humor. Sookie’s voice is strong and convincing, and I’m always happy to see another book featuring her and her friends on the shelf.
The Southern Vampire Mysteries include: Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, All Together Dead, From Dead to Worse, and Dead and Gone.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Mushrooms