Monday, 27 July 2009

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

We get two mysteries for the price of one in the second installment of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries. After a night of drinking in Merlotte's Bar, Detective Andy Bellefleur leaves his car in the parking lot and gets a ride home from his sister. When Sookie arrives for work the next day she sees an unexpected surprise in his back seat, the body of one of her friends.

A few days later Sookie is summoned to Shreveport at the request of Eric, the vampire sheriff of the area, as well as owner of the popular vampire bar "Fangtasia". As part of her agreement with Eric to spare the lives of the humans she questioned about the theft of money from the bar in Dead Until Dark, she must agree to come when ever he calls and use her telepathic gift at his request. Sookie honors her agreement and she and Bill drive to Shreveport. On the way Sookie encounters a strange creature in the woods, this creature uses Sookie to send a "message" to Eric, a very painful and bloody message.

At Eric's request Sookie and Bill travel to Dallas, Texas to investigate the disappearance of a "brother" of the vampire sheriff of the Dallas area. Once there, the job proves to be much more work then she anticipated when she finds out the reason for the disappearance of Farrel and who is behind it.

Spoilers Ahead

Living Dead in Dallas is the first book in which Harris takes her Southern heroine and her vampire entourage on the road. After arriving in Dallas, Sookie and Bill realize that Eric has traveled to Dallas as well to check up on Sookie. This is the first time we really get to know Eric and more of his personality is revealed to Sookie. Eric is shown to be straight forward and refreshingly honest about his intentions in various situations, a stark contrast to the controlled and secretive Bill. Eric is also charming and witty, but also always out for himself, which is the way he has always lived his life.

The relationship between Sookie and Bill that was such a huge part of Dead Until Dark begins to unravel a bit in this book. Sookie sees more and more of Bill's "vampire side" and further evidence that he is not, in fact human like she is. While I am obviously not a big fan of Bill in general, I do think it's hypocritical for Sookie to fault Bill for being what he is. Isn't the same type of discrimination that has plagued her most of her life? Bill can help the fact that he's a vampire about as much as Sookie can help that she's a telepath. I think it's a growing experience for Sookie in the end. She must learn to accept that vampires are what they are or stop hanging out with them.

Bottom line: Between the two mysteries to solve there is plenty going on in Living Dead in Dallas, the mysteries are pretty good. The characters outside of the principle characters are just average, making this book less interesting then many of the others in the series. I know, that's similar to what I said about Dead Until Dark, but keep reading, I promise it'll get better.


rameau said...

It's been such a long time since I read this book, but I have to agree with you except on one point. This book introduces Barry. Yes, he's severely underdeveloped in the books as are many other characters but the fact that he exists is quite important in my opinion. The True Blood fanfiction has improved some of the faults and plotholes this book.

And if you keep saying "keep reading, it gets better too many times, it'll create expectations that might not be fulfilled. The series does indeed improve as it progresses, but at no point will it become perfect.

Hey Lady! said...

Well, no series is perfect, right? I have to say though "Club Dead" is one of my favorite books, ever. Better then Twilight in my opinion. So, I guess it's a matter of opinion. I think the first two book is the Southern Vampire Mysteries are the worst of the series. I think it's all uphill.

rameau said...

My favourite of the series is the book CH wrote after Hurricane Katrina, All Together Dead (?) because real life ramifications obviously changed the plot somewhat and it in fact made the text better.

Club Dead is good too though it does have few flaws I wish it didn't have.

Hey Lady! said...

"Definitely Dead", is the one where so goes to New Orleans, then "All Together Dead" is the one in the Pyramid of Giza, which is after the hurricane, so that must be the one you're talking about. I like that one a lot too.

"Club Dead" does have it's problems, the biggest being the incident in the trunk of the car. Which would not have been SO bad had Sookie sworn off Bill forever after, which she should have. It was just a terrible thing that happened with little to no repercussions (at least not when it comes to Sookie or Bill).

rameau said...

Yes, I was thinking about the time they go to the Pyramid of Giza. I honestly think it's the best written book in the series even if others do have their appeal too.

As bad as the truck deal was or should have been, I was thinking about how badly CH sidestepped and destroyed Alcide's character. He had potential to either be really good or really bad for Sookie, but instead what we got fell flat. It was like CH changed her mind about the character sometime in the middle and never bothered to revise the early chapters.

The trunk thing just reaffirmed my opinion of Sookie's need to re-evaluate all her priorities. I can understand her being somewhat naive in and about her own relationships but honestly, the way the girl thinks boggles the mind.

And this critique doesn't imply that I love the series any less, quite the contrary. If I didn't love the books, I wouldn't be bothered to analyse and discuss them.

Hey Lady! said...

I totally agree, I have plenty of issues with the series. And a big part of the reason I love "Club Dead" is that it's prior to CH destroying Alcide's character. he had so much potential to be at the very least really interesting. I loved Alcide in that book. it wasn't til later that that all fell apart. Even in "Dead to the World" there was a bit of hope that Alcide could be a really interesting part of the series, but it was like CH just forgot about him.

Nolebucgrl said...

Oooh, good talk! I agree completely about the Pyramid book, that is probably my favorite as well. And I agree about the character assassination of Alcide. I really liked him and I thought they were going to go there but then she threw Debbie Pelt at us and effectively killed him in my eyes.

As to "Dallas", I enjoyed that it brought Eric more to the forefront as a character and showed his scheming side (getting her to remove the bullet and take his blood) while also showing his interest and concern for Sookie while Bill went off after vengeance. It was calculated of him but still impressive all the same.

I also like Barry and want to see him again.