For 2017, I decided a decent book-related resolution was to re-read all of the books I already own, as justification for my having bought them. Inevitably this has led to a re-read of the Sookie Stackhouse series (some may know it as the True Blood books, on which the show was based) by Charlaine Harris. These go fast (admittedly I’ve read further ahead than I’ve written, so bear with me if it gets a little rough-hewn and detail-light) but it’s a fun little series, if not at times corny, horny, and just plain bizarre. So prep yourselves for some telepathy, vampires, and a murder or two, in book one, Dead Until Dark. Spoilers to follow…
Let’s get the basics down: Sookie Stackhouse lives in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, where she works as a barmaid for Merlotte’s. Sookie is a telepath, which has led to her being very single, seeing as how she can’t date anyone because she can hear their every thought, and it makes intimacy difficult. Not to mention most of the town thinks she’s crazy, since she has next to no shielding ability, and can barely hold real conversations with people in crowded places. She will tell you about both of these problems repeatedly, over time, but be kind to her, she doesn’t really get out much.
When we open, Japan has just released synthetic blood on the mass market, the surprising result of which is that vampires the world over have outed themselves as very much existing and real. The human world is learning to co-exist with vampires, and Sookie is kind of hoping that a vampire will come to her sleepy town and make things interesting. And then Bill Compton, Vampire, enters the bar. Sookie discovers she can’t read his mind. At all. It’s a space of dead air in her landscape. Naturally, this makes him very attractive in her eyes (well, and he is also hot. Nothing says sexy like Civil War-era sideburns). Long story short, Sookie (with the aid of telepathy – make your powers work for you) ends up rescuing Vampire Bill from drainers who are going to sell his blood on the black market, he owes her one, the drainers come back the next day and try to kill Sookie, Bill kills them and makes it look like a tornado did it. Bill knows only Vampire Justice, and Vampire Justice is pretty screwed up most if not all of the time.
Before we get further into the plot, Dead Until Dark naturally introduces us to some of the recurring characters of the series. Besides Sookie, there is her Gran, with whom she’s been sharing a house since Sookie’s parents died some twenty years ago. She also has a brother Jason, who will sleep with any woman that crosses his path, but is ultimately an Okay dude. There’s Sam Merlotte, owner of the bar where Sookie works, occasional potential love interest, but mostly a pretty good boss and a true shapeshifter (he mostly takes dog form. When he is a collie, Sookie calls him Dean and he sleeps on her floor. It’s not weird). There are the vampires of Fangtasia, the vampire-themed and vampire-owned bar in nearby Shreveport, such as boss Eric Northman and his underling Pam (PAM, possibly my favorite character, who dresses like Morticia Addams for work but wears pastel sweater sets in her downtime, who delights anytime Sookie brings Eric down a peg, and who usually gets the best lines). There’s Arlene, the four-times-divorced fellow waitress on the prowl for the next dad for her kids. And Andy and Portia Bellefleur, siblings. He’s the local law and she’s a lawyer. (You could say they’re… law and order. I’ll see myself out.) They both irrationally hate the Stackhouses, and are real pills about it.
While Sookie is making eyes at her vampire neighbor, and we are meeting the local town color, someone is offing service industry workers. The two victims are a waitress and a gas station attendant, respectively, and their common thread is both girls are into Rough Sex, and have in the past bedded vamps. Unfortunately, they have also bedded Jason, and local law Andy Bellefleur is convinced he is the murderer and arrests him. Sookie knows he isn’t, so she gets Bill to take her to Fangtasia and meet up with vampires there, to question them.
After that awkward meet-and-greet, Sookie and Bill make out in a car, get stopped by the cops, and get into a snit. Bill thinks Sookie is being “naive” about his intentions, which thus far have involved him asking to court her, him charming her grandmother, hanging out in a cemetery, and Sookie calling contractors on his behalf. There have been makeouts, but overall, it’s been romantically lackluster, and Sookie feels Bill’s just not that into her. So when Bill is the guest speaker at her grandmother’s club, Descendants of the Glorious Dead (elderly Civil War enthusiasts), Sookie ends up going with Sam out of spite. (Well, and interest. Sam’s a good-looking dude, not dead, and he asked her out.) It ends the way all hot dates with your boss to war reminiscences go – getting home and finding your grandmother murdered.
That’s right – MURRRDERRR hits close to home. Sookie figures the killer is targeting fangbangers, knows that Sookie has been recently associating with Vampire Bill, and while waiting for her, got Gran instead. It’s a bad time. Not to mention, she gets the house, and Jason slaps her in fury. But it’s okay. Bill comes over one night, brushes her hair, and then they Do It. And continue to Do It, repeatedly, sometimes in a hot tub (Vampire Bill owns a hot tub – the guy sleeps in the dirt, this checks out).
Understand that while most humans are put off by Sookie, who is widely considered pretty but not all there, the vampires (and other supernatural figures) often find her intriguing at the least. A telepath is a hot commodity, especially since now vampires are public, they can’t just maim and kill to get what they want, and have to go through respectable channels. Sookie is at times a means to an end for them, and gets appropriately rented out as such. This is going to come up in the second book, but here, Eric brings her into Fangtasia to read a few minds and find out who is embezzling funds. As it turns out, it’s sexy vampire bartender Long Shadow, who attempts to rip Sookie’s throat out before she can out him as the culprit, only to get staked by Eric.
AND THEN, we still have the regular murder to solve! Blah blah, turns out it was Rene, Arlene’s latest beau, all serial killer-y because his sister slept with a vampire one time. He murdered her, too, for what it’s worth. Rene stakes out Sookie’s house one night, no pun intended, then chases her through the woods and cemetery before she stabs him in the leg and calls 911. It’s over!
As this series goes on, it’ll be easier to just have a handy list of questions to answer, because the same stuff tends to happen, albeit in different ways. The pertinent stuff:
–Does anyone new get introduced that in theory will come up later as a recurring character?
This is a freebie for this particular recap, as everyone is new.
–Does Sookie get laid and/or romantically propositioned? (And by whom?)
She goes on a date with Sam, but ultimately ends up with Bill, and they bang a lot.
–Does anyone wind up dead?
Several people! A few of the local folk, including a Merlotte’s waitress and Fangtasia bartender Long Shadow. It’s okay, you don’t really know any of them.
–Does Sookie get injured in some capacity?
She sure done do! Sookie ends up in the hospital after confronting Rene in the cemetery. She’s never been hospitalized prior to meeting Bill. Eric sends her a flower that looks like female genitalia.
–Is Andy Bellefleur a pain in the ass?
Local law Andy Bellefleur is the actual worst. In his attempts to prove whether or not Sookie is a telepath, he is constantly thinking nasty things around her, ultimately culminating in imagining her screwing her brother. It’s gross. You’re the worst, Andy.
–Sookie Paramours: Who Wore It Best? Which will be my focus on which supe interested in Sookie is probably the best bet, romantically. This will be 100% biased, though probably changing, depending on how I feel that day.
Sam, you took your work friend (and underling) on a date to a town talk, where her maybe-love interest was the guest speaker. And then her grandmother got murdered. Technically that one isn’t your fault at all, but it does put a dark spin on the night, and you were on rough ground to begin with. Get it together, Sam.
And Bill! You started off your big romantic gesture with hair brushing and talking about your dead sister. I have never been a big fan of Bill, he is an interesting character as a nosy neighbor, but is mostly boring as a romantic interest and has no sense of humor. He’s just a horndog and there’s no soul behind it.
WHEN NEXT WE MEET, Sookie goes to Dallas and almost gets burned alive.