Dead and Gone, by Charlaine Harris
May 6, 2009
Dead and Gone begins with the weres and shapeshifters revealing their existence to the world. As one shifter changes her shape on live television, many others transform in front of their friends, customers, and even unsuspecting family members. Reactions are mixed, but many humans seem willing to try to accept their newly outed neighbors. Then a werepanther is found crucified behind Merlotte’s Bar.
Everyone in town wonders if the killer was an anti-supernatural fanatic or if there was a more personal motive. The local investigation is assisted by a pair of FBI agents with a keen interest in Sookie, so she has to be even more careful than usual about hiding her telepathic talent.
On top of all that, Sookie still has to deal with the area’s dramatically altered vampire politics and the dangerous repercussions of meeting a long lost relative. She has strong allies willing to protect her, though their methods don’t always meet with her approval.
One thing I found really interesting is that Sookie seems less reluctant to call on those connections than she once was. But she’s still in over her head when it comes to the supernatural community, even though every decision she makes draws her farther into that world. One of her greatest priorities is keeping her independence, but that requires bonding herself even more tightly to the powerful vampire who hasn’t shown signs of restricting it (at least not so far).
The mystery had a great introduction, but for me it was the weakest thread of the book. The murderer was a bit obvious for once. I didn’t guess at his motive, but I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t buy the setup of it or that I just found the whole thing kind of silly. Thankfully, there are plenty of other things going on.
Sookie learns more about the fairies, but their attention makes her a target in yet another supernatural struggle. She stays mostly on the edges of this fight, but it leads to some of the darkest moments of the series so far. I’m still undecided about whether things got too dark too quickly for my taste, if not it was a close thing. The resolution of the fairy conflict was both sad and surprising. There was one loss in particular that didn’t seem to get nearly the attention it deserved, but I assume that more mention of it is being left for later.
The high point is easily everyone’s favorite viking vampire. The last few books had some interesting developments between Sookie and Eric, most notably the blood bond and Eric’s revelation that his lost memories had returned. But other events – and other relationships – always got in the way. But now Eric’s position in the new vampire order seems secure, and Sookie has closed the door on a future with Quinn. So neither of them has any more excuses.
I love how completely unapologetic Eric is about the decisions he makes to keep Sookie safe. Many of the other men in her life were capable of being just as overbearing, but none of them were as refreshingly honest about it. When they first met, Eric was fascinated by Sookie’s abilities and the advantage they could give him. Then he started valuing her as more than just an asset. It’s hard to really pinpoint when that happened, but her reaction to an offer he makes explains part of the reason why. It must be really interesting to be around a human that’s so capable of surprising him.
Despite my nitpicks with the murder plot and my discomfort with some aspects of the ending, the good bits of Dead and Gone far outweigh the so-so ones. I admit that between the HBO show and the Harper books, I was a little worried that these would start to drop in quality, so I’m really happy to see that doesn’t seem to have happened.