The third installment of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries, and my personal favorite. I think with this book Harris really hit her stride and fixed some pacing issues with the previous book. Another change was the maturing of the books protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse. When this series begins Sookie is an naive 25 year old woman who has never dated, lives with her grandmother, and certainly has never dealt with the supernatural. How her life has changed. With these changes Sookie is forced to grow up. While she is still the same person, she's more educated about the world and at same time, jaded because of all the things she has been forced to deal with. This book starts out with Sookie and Bill hitting yet another rocky point in their relationship. Bill is preoccupied with a secret project, and soon leaves on a "business trip" leaving Sookie alone with some cryptic instructions, should he not return. Sookie is soon visited by Eric, Pam, and Chow, who inform her that Bill is not where he said he'd be and that he planned to leave her. They also mention that Bill has been kidnapped and they need Sookies help to have any hope of being him home safely. Reluctantly, she agrees and is plunged deeper into a whole other world. A world full of werewolves, shifters, evil vampires, and a club called Josephine's, otherwise known as "Club Dead".
I love this book, it's my favorite in the series so far. One of the best things about this book is the introduction of Alcide Herveaux. Alcide serves as a reminder to Sookie of what else is out there. The interaction between Alcide and Sookie provides so much hope at this point in the story, and the idea that Bill is not the only one out there for her. Yes, Alcide has baggage (some seriously homicidal baggage), but he's such a great character, and as the reader I really felt how much he wanted to just fall in love with Sookie and have them both forget all the drama and live a normal life, well as normal a life as a werewolf and a telepath can have.
Another great element is the continued development of Eric's character. He shows actual compassion for the first time with he must tell Sookie the bad news of Bill's betrayal. Though he has every reason to be happy that Bill have done this to Sookie, after all, it has the potential to move Eric closer to Sookie as Bill is pushed further away. Instead he is concerned about her feelings, and how this will effect her. I think for the first time she starts to see him as more "human" and less vampire.
Bottom Line: This is where the book series really hits it's stride. A great book, full of interesting new characters and lots of excitement. Definitely recommend it.