Living Dead in Dallas, the second book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, is a hot mess of someone who ran out of story but still had to make word count. There’s a murder mystery involving an illicit sex club, which is not nearly as interesting as it sounds, there’s a maenad, which is also not as interesting as it sounds, and then a lot of vampire blah blah that take Sookie out of state and introduce a bunch of unimportant one-offs. It’s… it is a book and I read it. Spoilers to follow…
We open with finding the body of Lafayette Reynolds, black and flamboyantly gay Merlotte’s chef, in the front seat of local law Andy Bellefleur’s car in the Merlotte’s parking lot. We aren’t going to get back to that in awhile, so file that away, I guess.
In the world of local Louisiana vampire politics, Bill is a Vampire Detective that is beholden to the local Sheriff, Eric. (To be clear, he is both a vampire AND a detective, as well as a detective FOR vampires. But he is only a detective for vampires amongst vampires, not on any official force. Technically his title is Area Five Investigator, but that’s boring, because Bill is boring.) And since Bill has publicly declared Sookie as His human (for dating/feeding purposes, which is supposedly to ensure her safety from other circling vamps), that means Eric ostensibly owns her, too. So he loans her out to the vampire Sheriff of Dallas, who is missing a vampire from his nest and needs to get some information, through less bloody channels than usual. Vampires used to have the policy of Torturing First, Apologizing Never, but now that they have gone public, torture is generally perceived as bad, and things of this nature have to be dealt with through legal means.
But before they head off to Texas, Sookie and Bill get into a fight. Bill has just decided to throw his money around Bon Temps to establish himself more as a citizen (PS, vampires are all decently wealthy, some moreso than others), and has bought a strip mall. He has a line of credit at a clothing store there, and encourages Sookie to use and abuse it, but Sookie feels like a kept woman and is having none of it. Bill’s car breaks down on the road in the middle of this argument and Sookie gets out, only to be immediately attacked by a maenad roaming the woods, as a message to Eric. The message is, “I’m a crazy mythological figure living in the woods with a feral pig, bring me tribute.” Sookie gets to have poison sucked out of her blood by Bill, Eric, Pam, and new Fangtasia bartender Chow. Everyone is delighted, because apparently Sookie’s blood is better than an average human’s. Neat! Except not really, because no one wants their boyfriend’s boss to suck blood out of a deadly poisonous back wound, and then tell you he’s renting you out of state.
In Dallas, Sookie is investigating the disappearance of a vampire named Farrell, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that he’s been abducted by the new anti-vampire “church”, the Fellowship of the Sun. Fellowship of the Sun is run by Steve Newlin, who is a total fanatic. Sookie goes undercover to investigate the church with Hugo, the human boyfriend of Isabelle, one of Stan Davis’s vampire nest. Steve immediately locks them in the basement, because it turns out Hugo is betraying the vampires, and informing on them to the “church”. Sookie nearly gets raped by one of the Fellowship members, but is rescued at the last minute by Godfrey.
Godfrey is an old, old vampire, who’s hanging out in the bowels of the Fellowship basement, because he’s made an arrangement with them to meet the sun (i.e., become the crispiest of critters) to atone for his centuries of eating children. Since feeding and sexual desire is often tied with vampires, he probably molested them, too. He’s not a good dude. But Sookie still feels sorry for him, as he’s obviously contrite and possibly not all there mentally. Plus, he killed her would-be rapist, and ultimately helps her escape the basement. Escaping the church, on the other hand, needs to be done with the assistance of a shifter named Luna, who’s been infiltrating the Fellowship for months. This is Sookie’s first experience with shifters that aren’t Sam, and her first experience with werewolves. They put a bag over her head, but it ends up okay.
Farrell gets returned to Stan Davis’s nest, and there’s a big party, which gets shot up by the Fellowship of the Sun. In the melee, Eric takes a bullet for Sookie, since he can survive it and she can’t. He suggests that she suck the bullet out of him, and in doing so, she ingests some of his blood. This is no small matter, as drinking vampire blood enhances you physically, which is why Drainers are such a problem to the vampire community. But her drinking Eric’s blood, when he has also had her blood, means that now Eric has an ability to track her, and to sense moods. This does not seem particularly useful, but whatever.
While Eric is protecting and conning Sookie, however, and humans and vamps alike are dying in the shoot-out aftermath, Bill has gone full vampire and is hunting down Fellowship members for vengeance, without first checking in on Sookie at all. He has no idea if she’s even alive. Sookie is so rightly furious about this, she immediately leaves Dallas. Back in Bon Temps, she refuses to talk to the Bill to the point where he starts hanging out with Portia freaking Bellefleur. (Local law Andy Bellefleur hates this, and drunkenly yells at Sookie. Post-finding a dead guy in his car, Andy spends most of the book drunk. Actually, he was drunk before they found the body in his car. The first line of this book is, “Andy Bellefleur was as drunk as a skunk.”)
Sookie later finds out that Bill is trying to make her jealous so she’ll take him back, and Portia is trying to make herself seem Exotic, so she’ll get invited to the secret sex club that she’s pretty sure killed Lafayette. Portia gives zero fucks about Lafayette’s death, she just wants to clear Andy of any suspicion. Sookie, on the other hand, actually liked Lafayette, so when she (known vampire-lover, and not just obvious faker like Portia), gets invited to the secret sex club, she invites Eric along as cover and protection. She asks Eric to pretend to be gay, he wears hot pink Lycra pants. I assume this is something Eric already owned, as he would not randomly go shopping for this event, so I wonder.
Anyway, they go to the party, and Sookie reads the minds of the folk there. Other than Tara Thornton, who Sookie went to high school with, there is no one there you need to know or pay attention to. Three of them murdered Lafayette, in theory to keep him silent about the sex parties, but also kind of for fun, and everyone there except Tara is gonna end up dead. Because first Bill shows up, and is all territorial with Eric over Sookie. Then Andy shows up, and is drunk and armed. Then the maenad shows up, lured by lust and drink, and drives everyone to madness. I think their heads explode, but it’s hard to be clear, and the vampires clean it all up anyway. Andy lives. Sookie and Bill go back home and they find that Andy’s grandmother, Miss Caroline Holliday Bellefleur, has made them her famous chocolate cake in thanks, and blah blah, Bill realizes he’s actually the Bellefleurs’ great-great-great-great-grandfather, or somesuch. I hope you didn’t sleep with him, Portia.
And the bullet points:
–Does anyone new get introduced that in theory will come up later as a recurring character?
We have a few. There’s Tara Thornton, owner of Tara’s Togs in the strip mall, and childhood friend of Sookie. There is Chow, the newest Fangtasia bartender. Stan Davis, Dallas Sheriff. Barry, bellboy at local Dallas vampire hotel, who is also a telepath. Most importantly, there’s Bubba, a dim-witted vampire who is good at following specific instructions, but also likes cat blood. He’s Elvis. No, he’s really Elvis. I never make any of this up.
–Does Sookie get laid and/or romantically propositioned? (And by whom?)
Sookie is with Bill in this one, but she does invite Eric to a sex party, and they make out on a car hood. Sam has sex with the maenad, possibly in collie form, if that helps.
–Does anyone wind up dead?
A few vamps and mostly humans at Stan Davis’s victory party. Godfrey goes and meets the sun on his own time, with no help from the Fellowship. A rapist gets murdered, so that’s nice. And some murderers explode, so there’s some justice everywhere, I guess.
–Does Sookie get injured in some capacity?
You know it. Sookie gets all banged up in her grand Fellowship escape, including a car accident, and has to go to the Dallas emergency room.
–Is Andy Bellefleur a pain in the ass?
Yes. But local law Andy Bellefleur does wind up with a dead guy in his car, though, so I guess he has cause for being an ass, and gets rightly punished for previous assery. He does get drunk a few times though, and handles firearms. You suck, Andy.
–Sookie Paramours: Who Wore It Best?
Dear Bill: I do not care.
WHEN NEXT WE MEET, Sookie goes to Jackson and gets staked. This girl should not travel outside of the state, honestly.