Book Review: Dead in the Family

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact I'm a True Blood fan, but one thing you may not know about me is that I'm also very stubborn about certain things, and that includes reading the book before I see the film or TV show after the 'Lord of the Rings incident' (I saw the film of Fellowship of the Ring before I read the book and now annoyingly always see Elijah Wood as Frodo). However, one of the disadvantages of this is when a book series is still publishing and is also being shown on TV is that they change all the covers, so you're forced to get the edition with the TV show's cast on the front. But I can overlook that for Charlaine Harris.

I'm going to stop now before I write the rest of this review and say in big capital letters that there are SPOILERS for the series. If you haven't read any of the other books in this series (and I really suggest that you do, in the order they were published) then please don't read on unless you don't mind knowing what happens.

Dead in the Family is the tenth book in Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries series, which follow Sookie Stackhouse, a mind-reading waitress from a small Louisiana town who gets drawn into a supernatural world of vampires, werewolves and shape-shifters over the course of the series. In the previous book Sookie was caught up in the war between her fairy great-grandfather Niall and his nephew Breandan, and when we first meet her in Dead in the Family she is still recovering from the wounds she received during the conflict. However, despite having finally settled into a relationship with the vampire Eric, quite a few of her friends and acquaintances are still having various problems with their own families, both blood relatives and vampire 'siblings'. As always, it's fallen to Sookie to help them solve things, amid the backdrop of the government pushing for a were registration system.

Now I like the Southern Vampire Mysteries series a lot, as they're very good engaging quick reads with well-realised characters and a strong sense of pace. However, for this one it just felt like there was something missing. I'm not sure if it was the fact that the action seemed to move particularly slowly, or that all the focus seemed to fall on Eric and his vampire family (including something of a shocker for any fellow history buffs out there - Harris likes to imply that there are various 'celebrity' vampires out there but I wasn't expecting this one!) which felt a bit boring to me. I tend to prefer it when she writes more about Sookie's everyday life and her trying to fit in her more supernatural based activities around that rather than getting too wrapped up in that other side of things. Whilst the books are undeniably focused on Sookie, one of the series' strengths is its ensemble cast, but apart from Eric they all seem to have been pushed into the background a little bit and everything's been wound up too quickly and neatly. I know Eric's very popular with fans of the TV series so that might be why Harris chose to give him a bigger role this time at the expense of the other characters, but in my view it was a wrong decision.

That said, the novel was well written as always and of those characters that Harris did choose to focus on, they were very well done and a good deal of depth was added to them. The new characters in this book are well drawn as well; she's got a knack for being able to tell you a lot about a person in a few short paragraphs, which works well in a series like this where you have people flitting in and out all the time. So if you like the Southern Vampire Mysteries series then this one is worth a read, even if it doesn't quite have that magic something that the others do. And hey, there's always Dead Reckoning to try and make up for it...