Friday, July 3, 2009

Not 'DEAD' YET (Charlaine Harris)

From Tulsa World --

Not 'DEAD' YET --

May 10, 2009 --

By GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer --

Harris continues to find new fictional life in her paranormal series.

Within the first 60 pages of the latest Sookie Stackhouse release, shape-shifters make their existence known, a person is shot, another crucified, federal investigators show up and the resident telepath/barmaid finds she may have unwittingly married a vampire.

And that's just a warm-up in this ninth addition to the series by Arkansas-based writer Charlaine Harris.

"Dead and Gone" takes a delightful step up from the last installment, with the main character maturing and finding peace and possibly love in her sometimes violent and unfair world.

The author gets back to basics by keeping the story in sleepy Bon Temps, La., and focusing mostly on characters introduced in earlier novels.

As with Harris' previous books, Sookie reads the thoughts of others as she gets wrapped up in solving a mystery while trying to unwrap her tangled life, which has included vampires and were-animals among her suitors.

The series is the basis for HBO's "True Blood," which has taken some liberties in the portrayal of characters and story lines. Harris writes her books to be read in sequence. She does a fine job of including enough background to jog the memory of the Sookie Stackhouse faithful, but to truly understand and appreciate the developments, a reader needs to dive into the past titles.

Harris is a master at taking several paranormal worlds and plunging them into our reality with humor. Sookie hasn't lost her wit, as when she ponders whether fairy parents told their fairy children human stories at bedtime.

The dialogue is sharp and realistic, and action is swift, especially considering most of "Dead and Gone" takes place in one day.

The outing of the shape-shifters adds a fun dimension full of possibilities. As with "The Great Revelation" of vampires years earlier, Harris uses this as a mechanism for examining prejudices and the limits of societal acceptance.

Harris gives more insight into the character of vampire sheriff Eric and addresses Sookie's questionable family lineage and details of her parents' deaths.

Sookie says goodbye to some she has grown to love and care about, closing a chapter on what could have become an outlandish plot line. The sadness and even trauma she experiences is somewhat offset by the calm she finds within herself and the loyalty of a sweetly rekindled old flame and longtime friends.

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