Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review – “Dead and Gone” by Charlaine Harris

For Sookie Stackhouse, the day to day activities of the vampire and were communities in and around Bon Temps, Louisiana, are of vital interest, She's blood-bound to the leader of the vamps, a friend to the local were pack, works for a man who is shifter, and has a brother who is a were-panther…
But for most of the humans in Bon Temps, the vamps are mysterious seductive creatures-and they don't even know about the weres.

Until now. The weres and shifters have finally decided to follow the lead of the undead and reveal their existence to the ordinary world.

At first it seems to go well. Then the mutilated body of a were-panther is found in the parking lot of the bar where Sookie works. The victim is someone she knows, so she feels compelled to discover who-human or otherwise-did the deed.

But what she doesn't realize is that there is a far greater danger than the killer threatening Bon Temps. A race of unhuman beings--older, more powerful and far more secretive than vampires or werewolves-- is preparing for war. And Sookie will find herself an all-too human pawn in their battle…
Dead and Gone is the ninth Sookie Stackhouse mystery and by far the darkest story yet. As the series has matured Sookie has become more immersed in the supe world and in fact gravitated to the centre of it in her community of Bon Temps, Louisiana. On her journey, Sookie has grown from a young woman with limited life experience and innocence tempered by her telepathic awareness of human nature, to a resistant member of the harsher supernatural community, a victim of emotional and physical violence, but also transformed and strengthened by it. But not without a personal cost as reflected in this dialogue between Jason and Sookie midway through the book over his betrayal of Sookie and Calvin about Crystal’s infidelity –
“You forgiven me?” he asked before he’d taken a gulp of coffee. His voice sounded hoarse and thick. I thought he’d been crying.
“I expect sooner or later I might,” I said. “But I’ll never feel the same about you again.”
“God, you’ve gotten hard. You’re all the family I’ve got left.”
Even early on during the big coming out for the Were community, this mental exchange by Sookie as she watches a shifter on TV is telling about her new harsher perspective on life.
Alcide had made a good choice. Plus, if someone killed her right away, well . . . she was the new girl.
Curiously the big Were announcement that launches the opening of the book plays little bearing on the events to come. Just like a mystery writer to throw out a red herring. Instead the biggest mystery of Dead and Gone is what is happening to Sookie. Has she finally reached some vague breaking point or is there some supernatural influence at work. We have never seen Sookie this confused, uncertain and angry.
I felt a moment of disconnect, as if I were standing back from my own life and viewing it from afar. The vampires owed me money and favors for my services to them. The Weres had declared me a friend of the pack for my help during the just-completed war. I was pledged to Eric, which seemed to mean I was engaged or even married. My brother was a werepanther. My great-grandfather was a fairy. It took me a moment to pull myself back into my own skin. My life was too weird. I had that out-of-control feeling again, as if I were spinning too fast to stop.
Sookie’s blood bond with Eric undoubtedly comes into play but it is not as if Sookie is unaware -
“I don’t know if the-comfort-I feel with you is the blood bond exchange or a feeling I would’ve had naturally,” I said, picking each word carefully.
But in multiple situations she fails to act on that knowledge –
And thanks to my own dazed affection . . . or warmth . . . or infatuation . . . for the Viking vampire, I had done exactly what he’d asked without consulting my common sense.
We sat for a while in silence. I felt exhausted but oddly peaceful. I should be giving Eric hell about his high-handed handling of Quinn’s request and the knife presentation. I should be asking him all kinds of questions . . . but I couldn’t summon up the necessary fire.
But she does manage to stir herself and let a little of the no-nonsense, assertive Sookie shine through on one occasion as she responds to Eric-
“I don’t doubt that you want what you think is best for me,” I said. “And I don’t doubt that that marches right along with what you think is good for you.”
There is an angry and frustrated Sookie that we haven’t seen to this degree in the past -
I was mad at almost everybody when I drove home that night.
Not only was I afraid they’d kill each other, I realized that I was really tired of people popping on and off my property like it was a train station on the supernatural railroad.
But as often as the anger appears Sookie also wavers and voices inexplicable feelings -
It was almost impossible for me to feel anxious. I noticed in a distant kind of way. And yet surely I ought to be upset and angry?
Dark as Dead and Gone is, there are still excellent moments of humour and levity usually from Sookie -
Also, he picked some unwise words, Saying, “ I’ll enjoy killing you for my lord,” is just not the way to make my acquaintance.
and perhaps one of the most unusual sexual expressions I have read that made me laugh when Sookie is with Eric -
He was as deep inside me as he could get without an operation, and he glowed above me, his white skin shining in the darkness of the room.
And Eric has his moments too –
“You don’t want to know how I feel about you? Eric looked incredulous. “ I can’t believe you’re a human woman. Women always want to know how you feel about them.”
In Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris subjects a great many of her principal characters to significant tragedy including Jason, Sam, Amelia, her grandfather Niall, Eric and Bill and not the least of which is Sookie. After eight books most readers will have serious emotional investment in the series which makes this book a turning point. What happens to Sookie as the book draws to conclusion is devastating -
I was completely and utterly lucid for the next hour, which was the longest of my life.
I found it bewildering-and utterly shocking-that I could feel such pain and not die of it.
I would have been glad to die.
And the aftermath leaves Sookie at a low ebb that we have never seen before -
But I’d looked at death too closely-close enough to see all the pores in Death’s face-and I’d suffered too much. I wouldn’t bounce back this time.
Charlaine Harris taken some real chances in this book, shown us a flavour of Sookie we are unfamiliar with, changed lives, even killed off characters and it will be incredibly interesting to see what new direction the series will take next time around. I suspect there is some foreshadowing of things to come in this exchange between Eric and Sookie -
“You want to own your own life,” Eric said.
“As much as anyone can.”
Dead and Gone is a big departure from the safe and familiar Sookie Stackhouse that we all know and I think one of the best and most challenging books in the series to date. Highly recommended.


Penguin Group (USA)
Published: May 2009
ISBN #: 9780441017157
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 312

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1
Read an excerpt from Chapter 3.

Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Series:

  1. Dead Until Dark (2001)
  2. Living Dead in Dallas (March 2002)
  3. Club Dead (May 2003)
  4. Dead to the World (May 2004)
  5. Dead as a Doornail (May 2005)
  6. Definitely Dead (May 2006)
  7. All Together Dead (May 2007)
  8. From Dead to Worse (May 2008)
  9. Dead and Gone (May 2009)
  10. A Touch of Dead (Anthology - October 2009)


  1. I so want to read this but I'm not paying the $12.84 Kindle price tag! I'm not paying more than $9.99 for an e-book! :)

  2. Doug,

    I loved this book. :) I can't wait for the next one.


  3. I really enjoyed your thorough review. When I finished this book I didn’t really know what to think and couldn’t pinpoint why I was feeling that way. I finally decided I probably needed another read through. But after your review I feel much more settled. You make excellent points and frame the story in such a way I can now understand those feelings. Thanks so much!

  4. I love the fact that Charlaine Harris took a lot of risks in this book. I always respect authors who do that and I feel she dealt with them well.

  5. I literally just finished from Dead to Worse, I want to read this one sooo bad! Great review! :)

  6. Great, Doug thanks for the review !


    Doug spoke about CH and her book recently on my radio show to RAVVEEEE reviews!

  7. Love Sookie. Love Charlaine Harris. I think this is a good book; one of the better ones in the series in awhile.

  8. I was going to post my review of this one this week, too. I see your point on the book being challenging, but what I'm waiting to see is the outcome of all of what happens this time. How it all pays off will really tell me if this book in particular was challenging or not.

    I suppose it might be superficial to want same of the levity past books have had, but I do still wish it had had moments like Sookie throwing the Nora Roberts hardbacks at her opponent in From Dead to Worse. Scenes like that brought a balance to the series, which has always been dark. Sure not as dark as this installment, but it hasn't been all cheerful sunshine certainly.

    I dunno, I can't say this was a particularly great installment for me. I feel like there wasn't the same level of character development this time, but then I've never been a fan of only using the dark and twisted to elevate a character.

  9. Jessica I agree with you about the cost of ebooks but this is Sookie! It's got to be worth it :)

    Michelle at least we have the short story collection this fall . . .

    Skye what a lovely comment. Thank you!

    Princess Allie she definitely took risks in this one. I just loved it.

    Wendy I am almost jealous that at least you have some Sookie to look forward to.

    Thanks Dallas and for the review link. Loving True Blood in Dallas rocks for all things Sookie!

    SQT one of the best . . . until the next one :)

  10. KMont I completely agree with you about there needing to be a payoff, but I have complete trust in Charlaine Harris.

    There were still a few moments of Sookie's humour but it's true there wasn't a lot of sweetness and light.

    I have the impression that this book is an attempt to push Sookie's boundaries, a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". Of course it remains to be seen if this is the case because Sookie has a lot to bounce back from.

    The review over at Dear Author had an interesting perspective saying this book is Sookie's graduation into adulthood along with the realization that fairy tales don't come true.

  11. I just love this series so of course I loved this one but I did have a few problems with it.

  12. Hi Ladytink this Sookie release seemed to stir up more than the usual debate. Lots of folks thought Sookie wasn't her same old self.


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