2005; 295 pages. Book 5 (out of 13) in the “Sookie Stackhouse” series. New Author? : No. Genres : Paranormal Mystery; Gothic Romance; Vampires. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
There’s a sniper shooting the Weres in Bon Temps, Louisiana! Last week it was Heather Kinman, the first one shot, and the first fatality. Then it was Calvin Norris’s turn. Now Sookie’s boss, Sam Merlotte, has just become the third and latest victim. Fortunately, both Calvin and Sam survived, but not without losing a lot of blood.
All three were “weres”, aka “shifters”, aka “shape shifters”. Humans tend to refer to them as "werewolves", but that’s not totally accurate, since a lot of them turn into other animals when there’s a full moon. For instance, there’s a whole pack of werepanthers in Bon Temps.
Needless to say, the local Shifter community wants the sniper found and disposed of as quickly as possible. But who is it?
Well, any vampire is under suspicion, since shifters and vamps have never gotten along well. Humans are less suspect because most of them don’t even know that shifters exist, let alone live in Bon Temps. Sookie’s brother Jason has just been “turned” into a shifter though, so perhaps he’s holding a grudge against the were community. There are some weres who think he should be eliminated, guilty or not, simply as a precaution. Some even think Sookie could’ve done it, since she’s one of the few local humans who knows all about shifters and might hold a grudge about Jason being turned into one.
So everybody watch their step and stay alert! There’s a mystery to solve, and were-lives depend on it!
What’s To Like...
Dead as a Doornail is the fifth book in Charlaine Harris’s incredibly popular “Sookie Stackhouse” series. I’ve been reading these in order, and it’s fun to watch Sookie gradually develop from a young and innocent bar waitress into a valuable go-between betwixt our world and the paranormal.
The series' storytelling seems also to be evolving. This time there’s more emphasis on solving the sniper mystery, and less emphasis on Sookie’s romantic escapades. Male and female readers might have different views on whether that's a plus or a minus. The vampires here play second fiddle to the shifters, which is a nice change of pace, plus I think Sookie is growing a tad bit less sassy.
There are a slew of characters to keep track of, some recurring, others new. The number of “regulars” keeps growing, and Charlaine Harris does a nice and thorough job of getting new readers acquainted with them within the first couple of chapters. I didn’t note any new paranormal critters to deal with; just vampires, fairies, and shifters.
As with any good mystery, there are multiple plot threads to solve. Who’s killing the shifters? Why’s Tara with Mickey instead of Franklin? Who’s going to be the “Leader of the Pack”? Why is someone trying to kill Sookie (after all, she’s not a shifter)? Will Sookie ever be free of the inquiries about Debbie Pelt’s disappearance? That last one is a carryover from the previous book, in which Sookie learned what it feels like to kill someone.
There’s a pair of literary nods: one to Tami Hoag (whom I’ve read and liked), one to Carolyn Haines (whom I’d never heard of, but is real). The ritual for choosing the Leader of the Pack was neat to witness, and my favorite vamp, Bubba, makes a cameo appearance near the end of the book. The story is written in the first-person POV (Sookie’s), and I counted about 20 instances of cussing, which averages out to about one every fifteen pages or so. Sookie doesn’t get to visit any new places; everything takes place either in Shreveport or in the greater Bon Temps area.
The ending is stutter-step, exciting, and surprising, thanks to a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming. If you guess the identity of the sniper before Sookie figures it out, you did better than me. There’s a vague teaser for the next book in the series, as well as a 12-page preview of it, although personally I never read those previews.
“Eric’s provided you with a bodyguard? You need a bodyguard?”
“Listen, bozo,” I said through clenched jaws, “my life goes on while you’re gone. So does the town. People are getting shot around here, among them Sam. We needed a substitute bartender, and Charles was volunteered to help us out.” That may not have been entirely accurate, but I was not in the accuracy business at the moment. I was in the Make My Point business. (pg. 107)
“Sookie, you have to understand that for hundreds, thousands, of years we have considered ourselves better than humans, separate from humans.” He thought for a second. “Very much in the same relationship to humans as humans have to, say, cows. Edible like cows, but cute, too.”
I was knocked speechless. I had sensed this, of course, but to have it spelled out was just … nauseating. Food that walked and talked, that was us. McPeople. (pg. 214)
You can take the man out of the Viking era, but you can’t take the Viking out of the man. (pg. 212 )
I can’t think of anything to quibble about in Dead as a Doornail. The pacing was moderate over the first half of the book, but picked up nicely in the second half. Keeping all the characters straight might prove a challenge to readers new to the series, but it wasn’t one for me.
Dead as a Doornail is both a standalone novel and a part of a completed 13-book series. It will be interesting to see if this shift towards murder-mystery solving is a one-off thing or the start of a new trend.
8 Stars. I think Charlaine Harris’s main aspiration in writing this series is to keep the reader entertained. That may not sound very ambitious, but Dead as a Doornail achieved that goal nicely for me, and sometimes that’s exactly what you want from a book.