In Dead as a Doornail, the fifth book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, there are a few things going on. Arson, a sniper trying to take out local members of the shapeshifter population, some private detectives investigating that murder Sookie committed, a revenge plot, and a political coup, werewolf-style. Spoilers to follow…
When last we left off, Sookie was concerned that her kidnapped brother, recently returned and bitten to hell by a werepanther, was going to become a werepanther himself. When we open, Jason is ostensibly being sent off to panther summer camp, to go change in the woods with his new ‘family’. He comes back in the throes of a religious experience, basically, overjoyed at the change and vaguely regretful that he’s not full Were, and only half-changes.
In Bon Temps, though, it’s bad news bears for the shifter population, limited though it is. There is a sniper about, and it’s a sniper that knows enough about the shifter community to know who to target. Calvin Norris is taken out, and he ends up in the hospital, guarded by a local lone wolf (literally; he’s a Were) bodyguard for hire, Tray Dawson.
Another girl dies, but we don’t know her, so it’s not really as meaningful. Sorry.
But then the sniper strikes a little too close to home for Sookie’s liking, hitting Sam in the parking lot of Merlotte’s while Sookie is right there. They’re both ultimately fine, but Sam needs to take time off of work to heal his broken leg. So he asks Sookie to use her influence with Eric and prostrate herself before him on behalf of Merlotte’s, to borrow a bartender to fill in. The bartender in question is the fantastical Charles Twining, former pirate and current vampire, who has an eyepatch and bows a lot. As part of the borrowing arrangement, Sookie has to put Charles up at her house, in the cubbyhole occupied formerly by Eric. Sookie, understandably, is hella put out by continually being offered as a vampire safehouse, especially since she’s not going to get paid for this one.
But it works out pretty well, because Sookie is woken in the night by Claudine, who gets Sookie out of her burning house. An arsonist is found dead in the yard, and he has a Fellowship of the Sun card in his wallet. Those guys are the worst. Anyway, her house isn’t completely burned down, because Sookie’s impulse to shut the door to the kitchen in her attempt to get out of the house spared the majority of the house from the flame. Just the kitchen is torched, but it means she can’t use the house for a few months while it’s being repaired (because it’s also the rear exit). Sookie ends up having to move into one of the apartment complexes in the heart of Bon Temps. Also, she finds out that the local insurance agent is a witch, casting spells to protect his policyholders. We should all be so lucky.
Anyway, the shifters of Hotshot are kinda-sorta thinking that Jason is the sniper, figuring he’s resentful for being bitten into this life. It’s a legitimate train of thought, but what they don’t realize is how much Jason super loves being a werepanther. Poor Jason, he’s always getting accused of murder, just because he happens to be near tragedy and pretty stupid.
Harris also does something interesting here, and has a brief crossover with one of her other series, the Lily Bard books. Lily and her husband Jack Leeds are private investigators (from Arkansas), who’ve been hired by the Pelts to investigate Debbie’s disappearance. As you may or may not recall, Debbie is not so much disappeared as shot in the chest by Sookie and buried in an unknown location by an Eric who’s since had his memory cleared. I mean, I guess that still counts as disappeared to an outside perspective, if Sookie is the only one who knows about it.
Alcide invites Sookie as his “date” of sorts to the funeral of the Shreveport packmaster, Colonel Flood (hit by a car; nothing suspicious, for once). What he doesn’t tell her is that the funeral of a packmaster is basically the jump-off point in the contest to decide a new packmaster, where the candidates will announce. Alcide’s dad Jackson is applying, and Alcide brought Sookie so she could read the mind of the opposition, Patrick Furnan. (Which she’d done long before Alcide asked her to.) Sookie confronts him, wanting to know why he didn’t ask for her help up front, and he says he thought she’d do it because she “owed” him – he knows she killed Debbie. On the bright side, while he does know this, he doesn’t seem to much hold it against her, and definitely isn’t looking for real revenge. He says he doesn’t care, but Sookie has her doubts. Even though Debbie was a bitch, and Alcide had abjured her, he’d loved her at one point. Sookie, feeling betrayed, tells him she doesn’t want to see him for a long time, and flounces off.
Tara Thornton, who’d previously been dating vampire Franklin Mott, has been seen around town with a much sketchier vampire named Mickey. Sookie asks Eric what Mickey’s deal is, and he tells her to keep far away from Mickey – he’s bad news, even among vampires, because he does not play nice at all. If you think this is going to backfire, it does. Turns out Franklin Mott owed a debt to Mickey, so passed along Tara as payment. Sookie calls in a favor with Eric, who’s buddy-buddy with Mickey’s Area Sheriff, but it might not be soon enough, because Mickey shows up at Sookie’s apartment, takes out Eric (with a rock), nearly kills Tara, and attempts to rape Sookie. Sookie’s sheer disgust:
This was the trump card male bullies played, always. I was sick of it–sick of being scared of the bogeyman’s dick.
Girl, truth. Sookie saves everyone with her standard brand of simple genius – rescinding Mickey’s (forced) invitation into her apartment, and then he goes out into the rain to be hunted down by Eric’s friends, Mickey’s masters. Bye, Mickey.
As payment for all of his help, Eric asks Sookie to tell him everything that happened when he was staying with her, which he doesn’t have memories for. She does. Eric is less than thrilled.
Anyway, I’m skipping around a bit, mostly because a lot happens and threads all get resolved at different times. In any case, Sookie and Sam make out in Sam’s office the day after the fire, which is the sort of thing that’s been simmering under the surface for them for awhile. But, as you can imagine, it’s a terrible idea to make out with your boss, and besides, Bill walks in. You can’t get too mad at Bill, his intentions were good, he was trying to be a good friend/neighbor to Sookie after her kitchen burns down, but his apologies all come out sounding flat. Alcide comes by to theoretically offer help in the kitchen reconstruction, but all he does is manage to low-key (albeit unintentionally) insult Sookie in a lot of ways. THEN he tells her she should definitely come and stay with him while her house is being rebuilt, because they get along well and are hot for each other, and she does need a place to stay. Sookie very peacefully shuts him down with an argument that just because he SAYS he’s okay with her shooting Debbie, doesn’t mean that he really is, or even always will be. Sookie knows what she wants and she knows not to get into stuff for the wrong reasons. And that’s extra impressive because this face is the Captain Sad Eyes and the Abs Army asking her to come live with him. (Again, True Blood is a completely different weirdo beast than the books, but SERIOUSLY, Joe Manganiello, sorry not sorry.)
After catching Sookie kissing Sam (even though it goes nowhere), Bill starts showing up around town with Selah Pumphrey, a real estate agent who thinks very little of Sookie as a person but is obsessed with knowing why Bill ever dated her.
Sookie gets shot outside of the library. She hears brain activity just in time to duck, although not quite fast enough. Her shoulder gets creased. But there is a good side to it, if you can call it that, in that Jason was very publicly waiting at Merlotte’s for Sookie and therefore can’t possibly be the shooter. He is more excited about this than he is concerned that his sister got shot. Jason’s gonna Jason, you know.
Sookie doesn’t have to wait long to find out who the real sniper is – Sweetie Des Arts, the cook at Merlotte’s. She’s part-shifter, due to a car accident with unfortunate consequences, and instead of being thrilled with her change like Jason is, she’s resentful as hell and has great aim. Sookie is her current target, because Sookie hangs out with enough shifters that she smells like one. Sweetie takes aim, but a lurking Were (Dawson) leaps to Sookie’s defense, having been placed as her bodyguard by Calvin Norris. In the ensuing chaos, Andy Bellefleur shoots Sweetie, and comes up with a barely convincing story to tell to the rest of the police.
Sookie gets invited, as a friend of the pack, to the packmaster contest between Alcide’s dad Jackson and Patrick Furnan. We also get introduced to Quinn, a tall, bald man running the contest. During the second of three trials, Sookie sees in the brain of Furnan’s second that they’re cheating, and calls them on it. The pack decides to change the rules of the last trial, which is now to the death. Patrick kills Jackson, and is declared packleader. Alcide, who had deliberately brought Sookie to contest for this express purpose, wasn’t expecting it to not work in his favor, and blames Sookie, because he is kind of a butt.
Sookie goes back to work, and the last mystery falls into place. Sweetie Des Arts never actually admitted to shooting Sam in her final supervillain monologue, and it’s because she didn’t. Turns out it was Charles Twining, a hit man hired to get revenge for the death of Long Shadow, way back in Dead Until Dark. Charles feels a little bad about setting up his elaborate shoot-Sam-and-get-instated-as-bartender-at-Merlotte’s-to-get-to-Sookie plot (also, turns out he’s the arsonist, and the FotS dude was just a local guy he killed and planted when that murder plot didn’t take), because he actually ends up liking her. Sookie is saved at the last second, of all things, by a collection of assorted Merlotte’s patrons who heard a scuffle behind the bar, came and staked their bartender, then went to carry on with their night. Is it a hate crime if he’s an assassin? Fortunately, because of vamp politics, Eric was going to have to have him killed anyway, so there are no real consequences from the bar patrons who paid by check.
And the bullet points.
–Does anyone new get introduced that in theory will come up later as a recurring character?
Tray Dawson, Were, strong and silent type, motorcycle mechanic and bodyguard for hire. Patrick Furnan, Were, and the Shreveport packmaster. Quinn, a weretiger and master of ceremonies.
–Does Sookie get laid and/or romantically propositioned? (And by whom?)
Ladies, it turns out if you want a man, all you need is to have part of your house burn down, and the men come flooding in.
–Does anyone wind up dead?
Colonel Flood dies, but at least it was of old age/natural causes? Heather Kinman, local werefox that I swear we’ve never met before dies. Sweetie Des Arts, Merlotte’s cook, part shifter, sniper. Alcide’s dad bites it when he gets bitten in the throat. And of course, Charles Twining, the third Fangtasia bartender to die in Sookie’s proximity.
–Does Sookie get injured in some capacity?
Sookie gets shot by a sniper, and breaks a rib or two fighting a vampire.
–Is Andy Bellefleur a pain in the ass?
Fucking constantly, but at least this time he is vaguely helpful.
–Sookie Paramours: Who Wore It Best?
Alcide’s offer to come live with him would’ve hit a lot better if it hadn’t come sandwiched in between all of his secretiveness about packmaster politics.
Sam is kind of a dick, too, making Sookie suck it up and deal with Eric when she really doesn’t want to, all to beg a favor for Sam. He apologizes, and he DID get shot, so it’s forgivable, I suppose.
Bill is just always lurking, and he needs to fucking stop, especially when he’s bringing a new girlfriend around the bar.
Eric is doing okay, but is mostly just obsessed with finding out whether or not he and Sookie had sex in that time he can’t remember.
WHEN NEXT WE MEET, there is a vampire party, a gathering of witches (not evil this time), and someone who is a tiger in the sack.