SHE’S PRETTY. BUT IT’S HER MIND THEY WANT TO USE. HONEST!
Thwarting hate groups and solving murders is all in a couple of days work for accidental sleuth, Sookie Stackhouse.
Living Dead In Dallas
(The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 2)
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
Date: 20th October 2011 (First Published 2001)
While a part of me would ideally love for every book I read to be an unforgettable, life defining masterpiece, I realise that this is not a realistic expectation. There are times when I simply have to let myself enjoy a book for what it is. Reading a Sookie Stackhouse novel by Charlaine Harris is always one of those occasions. Living Dead In Dallas, the second instalment of the Southern Vampire Mysteries, much like its predecessor, Dead Until Dark, is at best a disposable guilty pleasure. Much, if not all, of the enjoyment to be derived from it is the result of how eye-rollingly cringe-worthy, and hilariously funny the story is. Whether or not that is by design is hard to tell. But I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt.
It is not really necessary to delve too much into the actual storyline, as ultimately it’s not particularly important; at least it’s not what readers are supposed to be primarily concerned with. The plot is merely a distraction intended to provide regular respite from what readers are supposed to care about; the relationship drama of the telepathic protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse. For those of you well read in Urban Fantasy novels with a female protagonist, you know the drill by now: It is obligatory for the love life of the heroine to be complicated and messy; presumably because successful, stable relationships are boring in the minds of the target audience, hence the requirement of copious amounts of needless drama to keep things exciting.
And so it is that Sookie is in a (mostly sexual) relationship with Bill the Vampire, but Harris has ensured that Sookie has plenty of admirers to provide temptation for her, and keep the possessively jealous Bill on his toes. In the previous book that temptation came courtesy of Sookie’s boss, Sam Merlotte, the Shapeshifter, with whom she sucked face with behind Bill’s back. This time, however, the temptation takes the form of Eric Northman, the master vampire to whom Bill is answerable to. And just in case you are wondering, yes, Sookie does indeed suck face with Eric behind Bill’s back. But don’t fret; as much as Sookie enjoys locking lips with other people, in spite of herself, she is completely committed to Bill, and only has eyes for him.
Narratively, the structure of Harris’ book was rather odd to my mind; almost as if two separate stories collided and merged into one disjointed tale. The story commences with the murder of one of Sookie’s work colleagues, which you would assume would lead into a drawn out investigation with the case eventually being solved at the conclusion of the book. Instead, the author quickly takes a major detour, leaving the murder investigation behind almost before it’s begun, to transport the story away from Bon Temps, Louisiana, to Dallas, Texas, in order to tell a different tale completely unrelated to the murder at the start of the book.
The diversion to Dallas sees Sookie tasked with using her telepathic abilities to help the vampire leadership of the city get to the bottom of a missing vampire case. Without going into detail, the matter is more or less resolved after Sookie stumbles upon a human hate-group that targets vampires. But then things take a turn for the worse, leading to Sookie having a falling out with Bill, at which point the author takes the story and Sookie away from Dallas, back to Bon Temps, where Sookie decides to single-handedly solve the hitherto unresolved murder. Needless to say that in no time at all Sookie does indeed swiftly wrap up the case. The End!
It is fortunate that the novel doesn’t take itself seriously; at least I hope it doesn’t. So much of what transpires is very funny, and if that is what Harris was going for, she certainly succeeded. The characters in general are shallow, and their behaviour is not in anyway believable. As for Sookie, the situations she finds herself in, and the needless drama in her relationship with Bill is so contrived it’s impossible not to roll your eyes at it. When I reviewed the previous book of the series, I mentioned that I couldn’t understand what it was about Sookie that centuries old vampires, such as Bill and Eric, found so intriguing. I have subsequently come to suspect that it may have something to do with big boobs. But don’t quote me on that.
Living Dead In Dallas is not a great story by any stretch of the imagination. But that didn’t prevent me from deriving some enjoyment from it. How other readers respond to the book will likely depend on how they feel about the protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse. After all, the story is narrated in the first person from her point of view, which necessitates being inside her head for the duration. Personally, I’ve never been able to become invested in Sookie; she’s just not a character who interests me at all, given that she is so unremarkable. I can, to some extent, overlook the fact that she is incredibly naïve and lacking in worldly experience, but the fact that she is, to my mind, so vacuous makes it hard to care about anything she goes through.
At face value, I should dislike this book. Almost everything about it is weak; the plot, the characters, the writing. Much like the other books of the series, Living Dead In Dallas, never rises above the level of guilty pleasure. But it’s on that basis prospective readers should approach the novel. Embrace the silliness and enjoy the book for what it is and what it has to offer; comedy gold.
Telling it like it is. Giving you honest and balanced, spoiler free reviews. Completely devoid of irrational fanboyism, or shameless astroturfing.