Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Paranormal mystery, Urban Fantasy
Stand Alone / series: Book 2 of Southern Vampires Mysteries, or Sookie Stackhouse books.
Summary: (from Penguin)
Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is on a streak of bad luck. First, her coworker is murdered and no one seems to care. Then she’s face-to-face with a beastly creature that gives her a painful and poisonous lashing. Enter the vampires, who graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn’t enjoy it).
Point is, they saved her life. So when one of the bloodsuckers asks for a favor, she complies. And soon, Sookie’s in Dallas using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She’s supposed to interview certain humans involved. There’s just one condition: the vampires must promise to behave–and let the humans go unharmed. Easier said than done. All it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly. . . .
Why did we read the book: We did a joint review of Dead Until Dark, book 1 of the series and we both loved it.
Ana:I loved book 1 but with the other book commitments that I had I wasn’t able to pick this up sooner. Because of that, the memory of my enjoyment with Dead Until Dark kind of faded away but as soon as I opened Living Dead in Dallas all the reasons why I loved book 1 came rushing back. Sookie is an amazing narrator with a very endearing personality. My protective instincts towards her are still very much strong – I just care a lot about her and want to keep reading more and more.
Thea: What Ana said! After reading Dead Until Dark I wanted to immediately jump into book 2 and start a full-fledged Sookie binge. Buuut, like Ana said, prior reading commitments and our obsession with scheduling/organizing prevented binging. So, it was with great enthusiasm that I finally cracked open Living Dead in Dallas–and finished the thing in a day! I love Sookie as a narrator, I love her kookiness and honesty. And I also feel very protective of her, and want to beat up anyone that does her wrong…yes Bill I’m talking to you! I found this book to be every bit as engaging as the first, with some nice complications thrown in, as well as some good continued development of characters met in the first book.
On The plot
Book two of Southern Vampires Mysteries finds Sookie Stackhouse still working as a waitress at Merlotte’s whilst trying to juggle her role as girlfriend to vampire Bill Compton and as go-to telepath for the local nest of vampires, led by Eric Northman.
Living Dead in Dallas has two main story arcs and opens with a murder that takes place in Bon Temps, Sookie’s town. The body of Lafayette, one of the cooks at Merlotte’s, is found in the car of Andy Bellefleur – local police officer. Lafayette was known to have gossiped about a secret sex orgy that took place in the town and Sookie suspects this is the reason for his demise.
Before this storyline can take flight, Sookie is summoned to Eric’s presence where she learns that she is to be loaned to the Vampires’ nest in Dallas. One of their “brothers” has disappeared and Sookie needs to read the minds of a couple of potential witnesses to gather information. There she learns that there is a fanatical religious group called The Fellowship of the Sun who believes that vampires are unnatural beings against God’s creation, therefore should be killed. They organize ritualistic “suicides” which they call “meet the dawn” – where a vampire is left to burn upon sunrise. Some vampires are willing to kill themselves – Like Godfrey, a paedophile serial killer, weary of a long life of sinning, others are taken against their will. This is the case of Farrell, the vampire that has disappeared. Sookie, who is growing more and more comfortable in her telepathic skills is sent to investigate the sect’s HQ and is taken prisoner and set to be burned alongside Farrell – the Fellowship also persecute the humans that willingly associate themselves with the vampires. She manages to escape in the eleventh hour with the help of Godfrey and a shapeshifter named Luna, who was also working undercover. The shapeshifters are not going mainstream as the vampires but they think they should prepare themselves against their potential enemies.
Once The Fellowship is dealt with , Sookie returns to Bon Temps, where Lafayette’s murder storyline resumes and Sookie once again finds herself doing some investigating with the help of Eric Northman. Meanwhile, there is a very ancient, Mythological being living in the woods, a Maenad called Callisto who requires tributes from the vampires and whose presence is unsettling and dangerous.
All the while Sookie has to deal with the consequences of dating a vampire and to cope with some of his most inhuman reactions whilst fighting the romantic advances from Eric Northman.
Ana: I really like how things developed in this book. I enjoyed both storylines – the one in Dallas was very intense and scary and got my heart racing, I was so worried about Sookie. The one back home had both hilarious moments (Eric Northman in Pink Leggings! ) and disgusting /disturbing ones . I guess even small towns have their big nasty secrets.
I find the world that Charlaine Harris created interesting and engrossing. I particularly like the implications of Vampires going mainstream and becoming members of society and how not everyone will welcome them with open arms. I like the businesslike mentality that come with it and how there are hotels that cater for vampires’ needs or companies that specialties in coffin transportation for vampires that need to travel during the day. These details in the world building are what makes it very believable to me.
I also like that Sookie is assuming a detective persona and wonder how this is going to develop in future books. Although she seems to be quite happy in being just a waitress she clearly has the potential to be more than that– a potential that Eric Northman hints at.
Thea: I found the dual storylines–both in Dallas and back in Bon Temps–well paced, and highly engaging. And actually, I’m impressed that Ms. Harris decided to shift settings from Louisiana to Texas in book 2! Book 1 gave me a really good feel for Sookie’s rural hometown, and the contrast between Dallas and Bon Temps (especially Sookie’s perceptions of both settings) was pretty nifty. Plus, the change of location managed to give me a broader feel for Ms. Harris’ universe. As Ana has mentioned, it was pretty cool to see how integrated vampires are in this world–from coffin transportation services, to specialized hotels (complete with ‘room service’), and even the presence of vampire hate groups/religious zealots. In particular, I was intrigued by the Fellowship storyline. As most new legislation pertaining to minority groups is usually met with some kind of fanatical resistance (anti-same sex marriage groups or anti-immigration groups, in recent applications), it makes sense that the same kind of reaction would be applicable to recently ‘outed’ vampires. While this bible-thumping thread is visible in other series’ that deal with supernatural creatures, I appreciated the incorporation of it here. There are some genuinely scary moments when Sookie faces the Fellowship.
The Bon Temps/Lafayette storyline I felt took a backseat here, but it was still nicely developed and had an unexpected resolution. Ms. Harris does a great job of keeping things moving quickly, and smoothly.
On the characters:
Ana: I love Sookie and I like to see her becoming more comfortable with her gift. The fact that she rarely refers to it as a disability anymore is very telling. She seems to be not only more used to it, but also to be further developing and expanding it. She had a good opportunity to try communicating with another telepath in Dallas. I love how she is just a good person, who always want to help people sometimes even at her own peril. I wonder if she is an empath too, not only a telepath and whether she is truly just a human?
Sookie is one of the few heroines which I relate to, root for and feel very protective about. It is in that sense of protection that I hate her relationship with Annoying Bill. I think he is a Selfish Bastard who takes her for granted. I feel like he sees her as his possession and don’t actually SEE Sookie and uses her to his own satisfaction. I hate the bloke with a passion especially after scenes such as the one where Sookie is seriously injured and still Disgusting Bill wants to have sex without caring how hurt and in pain she is. Or, when they are attacked by the manic preachers and Thoughtless Bill just takes off in pursuit of the attackers without even checking if his very human, very mortal girlfriend was even injured. I say, off with his head already. I keep thinking that Sookie can’t possible love him and I truly think she doesn’t – I believe that because he is her first lover and the first person that she can be so intimate with without having mind reading issues, she accepts the inconveniences of being with Horrendous Bill. Although some of her inner thoughts are clearly starting to steer her towards some re-evaluation of what it means to be with a vampire and with that particular one.
And talking about vampires. Oh la la Eric Northman. The Enormous Blonde Viking, chief of the local section of vampires and who seems to be extremely attracted to Sookie although I can’t help but to suspect that there is something more to his advances than merely sexual curiosity. Perhaps it is her blood, perhaps it is her mind – I don’t trust him one bit but in any case I don’t care. Charlaine Harris, Kill Bill and have Sookie hook up with Eric, pretty please? With cherry on top?
I liked to see other shifters as well and I hope they can be incorporated to the story more often.
Thea: I really, really love Sookie. I want to protect her from anyone that might harm her, and it’s hard to read about all the stuff she goes through–especially in this novel. At the same time, I find myself cheering for her when she figures things out or makes a strong decision. She might not be a genius or a toughgal with ninja skills or whatever, but she isn’t stupid or a pushover either. I love the little touches where Sookie admits that she only knows about certain myths because she has read them in paperback mystery novels, or she knows some words because it was on her ‘word of the day’ calendar. She’s honest, sweet as pie, but also has a strong backbone–and I am loving getting to know Sookie with each book!
That said, I have to agree with Ana. I freaking hate Bill. He strikes me as selfish, inconsiderate, and manipulative. Even when he’s being protective of Sookie, it feels more like it is because she is his property, rather than someone he genuinely cares for. The part after the attack on the vampire house in Dallas, when Bill runs out to seek revenge before checking if Sookie is alive or if she needs help is just one example of why I don’t really think this romance is gonna work out. There’s also an undercurrent between Bill and Eric that makes me think Bill has something else going on that he isn’t telling Sookie.
Similarly, while Eric (the head vampire in the Bon Temps area) shows some very strong attraction and designs on Sookie, I’m hesitant to trusting him either. I think Sookie has figured all this out, regarding Bill and Eric, and I’m interested in seeing where this little triangle goes next.
Besides the romantic entanglements, there were some wonderful introductions to new characters here in book 2. The cruel, crazed Maenad Callisto was chilling and added a calculated complication to the story. I also loved the introduction of the shapeshifters–it appears Sam’s abilities aren’t just unique to him, as we meet a clan of ‘shifters, including a werewolf and a were…bat. I particularly enjoyed Luna and her quick-talking persona. Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of her and her kind!
Final Observations, Recommendations and Rating
Ana: I loved the pacing of this book – in fact I think the plot was more interesting and intense than the first one. I feel like having established the rules of her world, Charlaine Harris was able to let her imagination flow more easily. I thought this was a superior installment in the series. Thea, I can’t seem to think of anything I didn’t like……or didn’t work for me.
No, wait a minute – yes there are a couple of things that did bother me. One: there is the fact that every male seem to have an interest in Sookie – can she be THAT hot? (Or is it something else entirely?)
And how she is the punching bag of both supernatural beings and humans – can she really take all that and recover that fast just because she drank some vampire blood?
In any case, these are minor peeves with a series that is clearly shaping up be a favourite of mine.
A final note: I don’t read these books for the relationships, I read them for Sookie and her adventures. But I found myself looking forward to any scene with Eric Northman in it. Yeah, I know I am a sucker for bloodsuckers (ha ha) , unless of course they are named Bill Compton in which case they are very welcomed to Meet the Dawn (I feel very strongly about him) .
Thea: I *really* enjoyed this book, and I too feel the love for Sookie Stackhouse. I really can’t say much against it, other than these books are very light. I devour each book in one sitting. Which isn’t a bad thing–but I’d like to see some grainier, heftier issues thrown Sookie’s way. I know she’s capable of dealing with the tough stuff!
And Ana, hah! Yeah it does seem that Bon Temps has an overly high concentration of sexiness…but who am I to complain? These books are escapist, and good fun. They aren’t intended to be groundbreaking or heavy literature–and sometimes, a nice getaway to Bon Temps with Sookie Stackhouse and her shenanigans is just what the doctor ordered.
Ana : I loved the scene right after the vampires destroyed the sect and rescued Farrell. Sookie is pretty beaten up, still recovering. But she still wakes up before sunrise to do and find Godfrey and be witness to his lonely suicide, even though he is a paedophile killer and it abhors her. It just goes to show how courageous and empathic Sookie is. And she goes all by herself and doesn’t ask for anyone’s protection. I heart Sookie.
Thea I loved this early exchange between Sookie and Bill:
“…Tara knows that if you come in, she will put any clothes you buy on my account.” [said Bill]
I could feel my temper creak and give way. Bill, unfortunately, could not. “So, in other words,” I said, proud of the evenness of my voice, “they know to indulge the boss’s fancy woman.”
Bill seemed to realize he’d made a mistake. “Oh, Sookie,” he began, but I wasn’t having any of it. My pride had risen up and whopped me in the face. I don’t lose my temper a lot, but when I do, I make a good job of it.
“Why can’t you just send me some damn flowers, like anyone else’s boyfriend? Or some candy. I like candy. Just buy me a Hallmark card, why don’t you? Or a kitten or a scarf!”
“I meant to give you something,” he said cautiously.
“You’ve made me feel like a kept woman. And you’ve certainly given the people who work at those businesses the impression I am,”…
“Sookie, get back in here right now!” Bill was mad now, by God. Well, it had taken him long enough.
I shot him the bird as I stepped into the woods.
Go Sookie! You show that old fashioned vampire who’s boss!
Ana: 7, very good
Thea: 7 Very Good
Reading next: Another joint of a Sookie Book: Club Dead.