Title: Club Dead
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Paranormal mystery, Urban Fantasy
Stand Alone / series: Book 3 of Southern Vampires Mysteries, or Sookie Stackhouse books.
Summary (from barnes&noble.com)
Sookie’s boyfriend has been very distant-in another state, distant. Now she’s off to Mississippi to mingle with the underworld at Club Dead-a little haunt where the vampire elite go to chill out. But when she finally finds Bill-caught in an act of betrayal-she’s not sure whether to save him…or sharpen some stakes.
Thea So, we decided to go ahead and indulge ourselves with a Sookie Stackhouse binge after our shared love for books 1 and 2 in the series. And, in true Sookie style, Book 3 did not disappoint! Sookie’s rocky relationship with le asshole Bill takes a turn for the worse here, and even though Bill has betrayed Sookie on every level, she still loves him and needs to try to save his sorry ass. I found the overall mystery story entertaining and of the same (if not higher!) caliber as its predecessors, the characters were characteristically well developed, and really I couldn’t ask for more. Club Dead delivers just what I have come to expect from Sookie Stackhouse–a fun romp on the lighter side of the paranormal world, although this one is darker than the first two books.
On the Plot:
***WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS***
Sookie and her vampire boyfriend Bill Compton are having issues. Bill has been cold towards Sookie for the past weeks, working a lot on his computer. He asks for some time to work exclusively on this and informs Sookie that he is to leave town for a while in a special secret assignment for the vampire queen of Louisiana. (Yes, we learn in this book that the vampires have divided the US between them and instead of states there are kingdoms, which in turn, are divided in sections. )
When Eric Northman, chief of section 5, where Sookie’s town is located, comes by to tell her that Bill has gone MIA, Sookie is worried. But on top of that Eric brings other bad news: Bill was planning on leaving Sookie as he has become involved with another female vampire, his ex-lover. Oh, the ignominy.
Even though she is hurt and furious Sookie has no other choice but to go after Bill on Eric’s request. As a telepath she will be able to learn things that no one else can. They suspect Bill has been taken by the King of New Orleans who desperately wants the computer program he was working on – a program that lists all the known vampires in the world.
With her, as protection, is going Alcide Herveaux, a true Werewolf , a good, down-to-earth man and a fantastic respite from all vampires in her life. They become friends (and perhaps something more) and with his help, she goes about investigating Bill’s disappearance whilst coming across other dangers to their life.
When Sookie finally manages to find Bill, she will have to make a decision regarding their relationship and the life that she has been catapulted into.
Ana: Whereas I enjoyed the mystery plot in the two previous books, I felt the one in the this book was contrived and merely came as an excuse to separate Foul Bill and Sookie (not that there is anything wrong with that) . The whole premise felt flimsy to me. The thought that a King of Vampires, a race who have been trying to go mainstream and become respectable would chance a war against another Queen just to get a computer program that 1) they could have offered to buy 2) they could have got another of the numerous older vampires to research 3 ) any person with a modicum of computer skills could create as easily as Vile Bill – who let’s be honest here, doesn’t strike me as a computer genius to say the least. The other thing that got me really frustrated was the other problems Eric and Sookie ran into with the human gang members – why would they go to such a trouble to avenge a piece of scum and to get it on against vampire Eric? Humpf. Seriously? Plus wasn’t it way too easy for Sookie to save Just Let Him Die Bill like she did? I mean, if he was that important , shouldn’t he have been guarded more carefully?
I was sad to have Sookie away from Bon Temps and the small town feel of her life and her relations although I can easily see how this was part of what Charlaine Harris wanted for her heroine – for her to see the differences that meddling with Vampires brought to her life and how her new life compares to the old one.
I also felt that some of the things that made the world so enjoyeable and interesting were absent this time. I didn’t see any of the vampire mainstreaming issues or struggles to fit in. It was more the usual power rush of vampire politics between two factions that was awning for me.
Thea: Weeeeell, I have to disagree! I felt that this particular mystery story was of the same level as the other books, which is to say not mindblowing Agatha Christie-esque, but more along the lines of a Scooby Doo or Nancy Drew type of mystery story. And I happen to love Scooby and the Gang, and Nancy (Bess and George too).
First, I have to admit when I read of the “King of Mississippi” and the “Queen of Louisiana” I was slightly thrown. That sounds so…hokey. But it should be noted that even Sookie found this ludicrous and was battling laughter in the conversation as well! I started to think about it, and really it does make sense. Vampires here are a species that have been around for a long time. A Very Long Time. As such, the older, more powerful vampires probably would have classified themselves as Kings and Queens (I wonder if there is One King/Queen to Rule Them All? What would he/she be called? Supreme Highness?)–it’s egotistical enough to work. Also, the different divisions of the United States called ‘fiefs’ but recently changed to ‘Areas’ works in a strange sort of logic too (although I have to say that these fiefdoms would probably not be numbered, but instead given some archaic names…but I suppose for the sake of keeping things simple, this works). As to the power struggles between states (kingdoms?) and their monarchs…to me it makes sense. Vampires are aggressive predators, and they are very old and very powerful. A side effect of living forever most likely is boredom…and another effect would be power hunger. Thus, scuffles between the monarchs of different kingdoms doesn’t seem too far off to me–looking at human history (say any period in European history for a broad example), this is a common theme. Wars have been started over many a stupider thing than a computer database.
Second, on the vampire database thing…I understand Ana’s derision. The creation of a vampiric database of course would piss off immortal creatures that had until recently been in the closet. However, taking a census of all vampires again makes sense to me–governments have been doing this since back in the Babylonian days. Since I’ve been sticking with the European smiliarities, take for example the Domesday Book–the first census of England taken by William the Conqueror–collected in order to figure out how much land each inhabitant had, and thereby how much to tax them accordingly.
Granted, in this vampiric application, it seems the Queen of Louisiana has darker intentions by wanting to keep the information secret…but again, knowledge is power. We never really learn what the Queen is intending to do with this information, but I assume it has a higher purpose of power consolidation of some sort that will be explored at a later date. Bill, fool that he is, undertakes the job with voracity and clearly is the ‘fall guy’. Again, makes sense to me.
One final thing on the database compilation–yes this seems like something that wouldn’t be too hard to create. BUT, I loved that to the vampires–again, an ancient species–the internet is a cool new thing that allows them access to previously untappable information. The incorporation of the internet and Bill’s computer prowess seems funny to us humans, but I think rang very true for the vampires. I liked it!
What else can I say? The plot was well paced with a sufficiently executed mystery. In fact, one minor mystery (a dead dude shoved into a closet) does not get resolved until the last paragraph of the novel…and it had me grinning in delight. Really, well done.
On the characters
Ana: Some character development for our Sookie. I like to her struggles between the small town church goer with her morals and principles having to go through so much on the darker side of the force. She has not only to do violence, to see violence, to eventually commit murder (even if to save her own life) and also to deal with feelings that all the men in her life bring up. She is a very strong woman who stands up to herself but who is also very much vulnerable. She has uncertain feelings about her life with Worthless Bill – always had had them, but in this book she listens to them. Specially the one that shows her how much he doesn’t take care of her: especially heartbreaking is to see how she struggles with her money issues and is at the same time proud of not asking for help and saddened that any help isn’t offered by Incredibly Selfish Bill. This balance between being strong and vulnerable is what is so alluring about Sookie to me: she is essentially a good person caught in a life that she doesn’t feel she belongs to but that now that she has seen it, I don’t think there is any turning back. Even if she just wants to be normal and simple Sookie, the waitress.
And speaking of her feelings or reactions to Bill, Alcide and Eric. I have some questions:
Thea, can you please explain to me like I am a 5 year old how come Sookie is so freaking horny all the time and on the verge of shagging all of them in any given point of the book? Is it because she spent the first 25 years of her life without close contact to any human male and now that she has found men that do not pose a threat to her mind, her body is awake and ready to party? Or does it happen because she has ingested vampire blood and vampire blood brings Teh Sex? Or am I just sulking and jealous?
Or is it because there is more to Sookie than we think and perhaps she is not JUST a human with telepathic powers? She does have a super heroine complex and seems to believe she can save everybody and that her body in unbreakable – even though she is quite aware of the fact that it isn’t?
Dastardly Bill – I am chuffed to bits that he is out of the picture now. Hopefully for ever? I have never liked him from book 1 and his actions in this book just prove I was right aaaaall along. So long, Despicable Bill you will NOT be missed.
Eric, he may be a vampire, he may have second intentions and not be entirely trustworthy but he is an Enormous Blonde Viking vampire who is always there to help Sookie when all the other men disappear when danger shows. He pays attention to what Sookie says and needs, like he is saving information for when as he puts it, she becomes his lover. He seems to believe it only a matter of time and I am praying that he is right. Charlaine Harris, what have you done? Why, why, when I find a heroine whose series I can follow just because of HER, you have to come up with a character like Eric Northman that makes my hero-wired brain forget all about Sookie and just read the story to get to the points he is in? WHY, Charlaine Harris, why?
I quite liked the character of Alcide, the Were that helps Sookie. I thought they had good chemistry and the fact that he was just (almost) a regular bloke, down to earth, someone who Sookie could see herself coming home to, was very sweet. I thought their more heated interactions spun from the fact that they both had relationships with people that were wholly unsuitable to them and they just wanted to see how it would be with normal, nice people for a change. I would like to see more of him. He may be a good thing for Sookie yet.
And how can I forget to mention the return of Bubba, the Vampire-who-cannot-be-named. That is such a quirky addition to the series.
Thea: In our last joint review, I mentioned that while Sookie is sweet as pie, she definitely has an edge and that I’d like to see some darker developments for her to grapple with. Well, that definitely was addressed here in Club Dead. No longer the innocent barmaid of the first book, Sookie has been forced into trying situations and has had to make some tough decisions. Book 3 strikes me as a major turning point for Sookie–in terms of her relationship with Bill, her relationship with vampires period, and coming to terms with the fact that her life will never ever be the same again. She steps up in a lot of ways, and loses some of her innocent vulnerability–but this progression feels natural, not forced or brash. Sookie’s spunk and her temper getting the better of her adds more dimension to her character, and keeps her clear of dreaded Mary Sue territory. Especially since she’s so very desireable to everyone, apparently. *Side note: Seriously, Ana–I really must get a look at Sookie’s boobs, since they seem to be so spectacularly coveted!*
I also had a slight problem with Sookie’s crazy horniness this book, but the way I took it was, she’s young and has just been introduced to sex. 26 years of repressed hormones and all that. I guess. Although…I do think there is more to Sookie than we know already. Ana, I think you are definitely on to something.
So far as Bill and Eric go…meh. I’m not a huge fan of Eric turning mushy and sentimental towards Sookie; I’d prefer to think that his attraction to her is because he thinks she’s hot (with great breasts, again with the breasts!) and a useful tool to have around with her telepathy, and I still think there’s something Bill and Eric know that the audience hasn’t discovered yet.
I loved the new addition of Alcide to the cast of regulars (Sookie’s getting her own harem of admirers). Why? Because he seems like a nice, normal (so far as werewolves go) guy that genuinely likes Sookie. Plus, he has a bit of Cajun Gambit to him that I can’t resist.
The further explanation and distinction between Werewolves (only they can be called ‘weres’) and Shifters, the politics of packs, how everyone works together in the supernatural world was nice. I like that Ms. Harris takes her time revealing bit by bit of her world, as opposed to a huge data dump in book 1.
Oh! And I almost forgot Bubba–how can you not love him? His secondary involvement in the story is a definite highlight for me.
Final Observations, Recommendations and Rating
Ana: This was my least favourite of the series so far, because I thought the plot was pardon my French, stupid and lacking the solidity that was present in the other mysteries. Although I can say that development of it was well done as usual, the story was easy to follow, with a good pace. I still had a great time reading it, because Sookie is a very likeable character. (even if some of her actions in this book were eye rolling). In fact, the characters, I think, are what make these books to me and because of them I will definitely carry on, even though this instalment was not all that.
Thea: Well, things were getting boring with Ana and I agreeing on everything anyways 😉 I found Club Dead to be my favorite so far in the series! I like the deepening color to Sookie’s world, and I love that Ms. Harris isn’t afraid to take some crazy chances with her storylines (writing about Vampire Kings and Queens isn’t going to appeal to everyone). I felt that Sookie’s darker change of character here was essential, and I cannot wait to see where the story goes from here!
Ana: I am torn. There is the scene where Sookie has to drink Eric’s blood to cure herself which leads to a much much heated interaction between them and it ends with Eric saying: “I don’t like having feelings” *swoons* (Why, Charlaine Harris, why?).
But I will have to go with the one scene that made me so so happy.
“Bill, I rescind your invitation into my house”
Thea: I loved the ending revelation when Sookie figures out exactly what happened with the body in the closet–priceless! Buuut, I won’t quote that. Instead, here’s a short section of Sookie humor that had me giggling:
I exhaled just as shakily as I’d drawn the air in. I made myself focus on the bunch of keys. Unfortunately, there were about twenty. This boy had more keys than squirrels had acorns. No one on God’s green earth could possible use this many keys.
Ana: 6, good but meh. I almost gave it a 5, but given how much I love the characters, I decided on a 6. Definitely not my favorite in the series. (but I will not quit the series, it’s way too good in general, I truly believe this one was a fluke). *P.S. After reading Thea’s wonderful input and insight on the whole Database thing, I may have changed my mind a bit on that part of the plot. I still hate that it’s all about Hateful Bill though.*
Thea: 7 Very Good – wavering between a 7 and an 8 though for me. I really enjoyed this one; I liked the depth of character, and the change in direction Ms. Harris took this book. It feels kind of transitory, so this is why I kept the rate at a 7. However, I am really excited to get into the next few in the series, and see where these plot seeds go!