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04/22/2005 Entry: "Charlaine Harris' DEAD AS A DOORNAIL--Placeholder Volume (Leila)"

Dead as a Doornail

I obviously missed a great deal of the continuing adventures of Sookie Stackhouse--books 3 and 4 to be exact. This became clear as I read the first page of this latest installment where her brother, Jason, is about to shapeshift at the full moon, having apparently been bitten by a werepanther during one of the previous books. As I had last seen him as a very human lout with no hint of the supernatural to him, this development surprised and almost put me off the book.

DEAD AS A DOORNAIL has our intrepid heroine confronting the possibility of her brother's death as an unknown sniper is targeting shapeshifters. Let's add her house being torched by an apparent cult-member/arsonist, an evil vampire or two, werewolf pack politics, Sookie's former vampire boyfriends, shapeshifter politics, and I was beyond exhausted--not to mention all these wild adventures taking place in the space of three days if I'm not mistaken.

Sookie's love life is getting messy. Both ex-boyfriend vampires still appear to be in the running, in some fashion. Let's add an ambiguous relationship with her werewolf friend Alcide (When did readers discover this friend of hers was born a werewolf??), a potentially ambiguous relationship with the leader of the werepanthers, an acknowledgement of sexual attraction between her and Sam her boss, the sometime Collie (sigh--another supernatural!), and an erotic interlude with a remarkable weretiger.

All this amazing voyage of self-discovery while the sniper shoots friends of hers, an evil vampire is being particularly ugly with another friend of hers, and she's dealing with the aftermath of her house being partially burned down. One of the reasons I never could get into the Anita Blake series was the profusion of supernaturals of every kind who seem irresistibly attracted to that heroine. I'm finding myself with the same reservations concerning Sookie.

That said--I much prefer Sookie's voice to the Anita Blake kick-ass-and-ask-questions-later persona. There is a certain sweetness in her prosaic acceptance of other-ness that appeals immensely. While she herself is discovering the various aspects of vampire and shifter ("two-natured"?) natures and politics, we receive a clear understanding of her wonder and dismay, but always with that underlying note of acceptance. There's also a refreshing balancing act between her sweetness and her working-class toughness which the author manages with great mastery. I found myself continuing to read with interest.

I found the ending not entirely satisfying, and the entire book appears to be just a placeholder for further adventures and love affairs, perhaps. Reserve it at your library and enjoy it. It's light, but all in all a bit disappointing, leaving me with no particular desire to hunt up the two books I have missed, and only a mild curiosity about what comes next.--Leila

--DEAD AS A DOORNAIL review page (book 5)

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