Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Dead Until Dark

by Charlaine Harris


Vampires are traditionally very secretive, lurking in darkness and keeping mortals under the impression that they're nothing but a myth. However in the world of Dead Until Dark they have come "out of the coffin" and announced their presence to the world, just like any other minority group. This is thanks to the invention of V juice, a synthetic blood substitute that can sustain them.

The undead now have their own union, and are trying to integrate into society. But in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, tolerance is in short supply. Sookie Stackhouse knows this all too well, since she has a difference of her own to contend with. Sookie can read minds. This leaves some people spooked, and she's often dismissed as crazy. And since people don't guard their thoughts as well as they guard their tongues it makes it very hard for her to connect with others.

When a vampire comes into Merlotte's bar Sookie is excited, and when she realises she can't read his mind she is intrigued. Since her psychic ability has already ruined a number of previous relationships the silence of Bill Compton's thoughts is like a blessing.

However not everyone is well-disposed towards Bill. When the town is rocked by a murder, suspicion falls on the undead. Bill's fellow vampires are an unwholesome bunch, prone to lewd behaviour and brutality. They're dangerous to be around. Although Sookie doesn't want to believe the worst of people she can't deny that they are capable of evil.

When Sookie's promiscuous brother is brought in for questioning she does some investigations of her own, even though they take her into risky territory. But she may already be in trouble. Some of the victims had things in common with the young waitress, and she begins to fear that she will be the murderer's next target.

In some ways the gulf between vampires and humans is an apt metaphor for racial divisions. Only a few characters are willing to try to bridge that gap and see both groups as people. Whether it's through concern for her safety, jealousy or prejudice, Sookie's choice of male companion causes quite a lot of upset. However Dead Until Dark isn't all political: there's a very high body count, not to mention an awful lot of bonking going on. The story appeals to our baser instincts, to the realm of senses more than to reason. Fortunately it's very well written, so it makes for gripping reading nonetheless.

Although the novel's main concern is the murder mystery, there are hints of the adventures to come. The brief introduction of the vampire Eric holds a lot of promise for an exciting sequel, as does the unresolved rivalry amongst all those competing for Sookie's affections. This is a story with enough sensuality and charm to leave readers craving more of the same.

Book Details

Year: 2001

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Charlaine Harris