To say I was excited to read Charlaine Harris's newest Sookie Stackhouse novel would be like saying the Sears Tower is kind of tall. It is, and I was. (Notice the past tense -- "was." Not "am.") Dead in the Family is the tenth installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series (not including the Sookie universe set of short stories published recently), better known as the True Blood books. I first came to the series as a TB fan who wanted more. I couldn't believe I'd never heard of a mystery series set in Louisiana, as both southern lit and mysteries are favorite genres of mine. More than likely, its supernatural characters kept it under my radar. "Supernatural" or "vampires" is never a word I've used when searching for new book titles.
After watching season one of the hit HBO television show, however, I wanted to know everything there was to know about Sookie Stackhouse and her friends (and enemies) in small-town Bon Temps, Louisiana. And so I breezed through the first eight books with record speed (think weeks, not months). Thankfully, Harris's next novel Dead and Gone was released just as I finished the first eight books, and so I was able to read it in order and quickly. Then I had to wait for the short story collection. I was wholly unimpressed with it; there wasn't really anything wrong with it, it just wasn't... Well. Enough.
Flash forward to May 2010 and the release of the next real Sookie novel, Dead in the Family. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it; it waited in my Amazon.com cart for months, just so I would remember the date it was published. I bought it a couple of weeks ago, and read it last week. And... I was horribly disappointed. I read it primarily because I have this need to know where a series (especially one I have read every other book in) is going next. I still really like Sookie; her character and her quirks are one of the only saving graces of this novel. The plot leaves much to be desired. Nothing really happens. Sure, Eric Northman factors in, but after several books detailing their relationship, I have to be honest and say I'm over it. Sookie needs some new meat, and I don't mean that figuratively -- it becomes quite literal when the body of her love interest is thousands of years old.
Harris treats the entire book as a follow-up for several old plots: Sookie continues to recuperate from the injuries garnered by fairies in Dead and Gone. Fallout from the Fae War continues to also play a part in the action (or non-action, in this case). There is minimal discussion about her brother Jason's life after the death of his wife. And Eric's maker comes, re-hashing a tired plot involving the ins and outs of the vampire maker/child relationship (which Harris much better illustrated in Book#3 Club Dead's plot involving Vampire Bill and his maker Lorena). Harris also brings back the wolfpack and Alcide, but not enough for it to make things interesting.
All in all, there was way too much dwelling on the past, way too little forward-action in the plot, and no new interesting characters to speak of. Bottom line? Read it if you're a die-hard fan who can't get enough of Sookie and friends. Skip it if you've never read a Southern Vampire Mystery series novel before. But no matter whether you read it or not, be sure to tune in June 13 for the HBO season three premiere of True Blood. It should be loosely based on Book#3 Club Dead (if the past two seasons are any indication of a pattern, they've produced one season per book), which was one of the best novels in the series.
A True Blood Season 3 trailer to convince you: