Dead as a Doornail
Dead as a Doornail is book five in the Southern Vampire series told in the first-person by telepathic small-town Louisiana bar waitress Sookie Stackhouse. I’ve enjoyed all the books in this series and am happy to report that Dead as a Doornail is a worthy follow-up to the last in the series, Dead to the World.
Sookie is the reason why this series works so well for me. Sure, I love the guys (there are getting to be a lot of them), but Sookie’s good-natured, wry, down-to-earth practicality in the face of disturbing events wins me over time and again. She’s funny when you least expect it and wise when you think she might be simple. (You’ve got to love a heroine whose earnest New Year’s resolution in the last book was not to get beaten up anymore. Too bad she had to belatedly add “or shot” to that resolution!)
Sookie’s life and limbs are under such assault due to the fact that her rural world is increasingly peopled (I use the term loosely) by all nature of undead and supernatural beings – shape-shifters, witches, fairies, and other magical creatures abound. Vampires are legal citizens, but the other races remain in the shadows while they evaluate the success of the vampires’ “outing” to the humans. Each species has its own agenda, and humans have varying degrees of knowledge and attitudes about their existence. It’s a complicated stew and poor Sookie always seems to get stuck in the middle of it.
When Dead as a Doornail opens, Sookie’s main concern is her brother Jason, bitten by a jealous werepanther in the previous book and about to shape-shift for the first time. While relieved to hear his experience goes well, she’s startled and horrified to find out that other “two-natured” members of the pack – Jason’s pack leader Calvin and Sookie’s boss Sam – have been shot by a sniper in and near Sookie’s town. Though neither is mortally wounded, the shootings set several plot threads in motion, including the fear that Jason may be the sniper, and the need for a temporary replacement bartender. At Sam’s behest, Sookie requests the services of a vampire bartender from Eric, the vampire sheriff.
Sookie and Eric wound up together (in every way) in the previous book, but Eric has no memory of this due to magic-induced amnesia. Though he’s curious about his time in Sookie’s house and suspicious about events that occurred on his last night there, Sookie is hiding a big secret only Eric knows, so she keeps information about their time together close to the vest, further frustrating and intriguing the domineering Eric. Their charged exchanges are few but welcome.
It’s hard to divulge more of the book’s plot without spoilers. The replacement bartender Eric sends is a hoot, while Sookie’s friend Tara keeps some very bad vampire company, worrying Sookie and endangering the well-being of both women. As always, Sookie’s life is threatened more than once in this fairly dark entry to the series. One plot development I really appreciated is Harris’s depiction of the outpouring of friendship and aid that flows Sookie’s way when she has some serious trouble. Sookie is a good friend to many and often taken advantage of – it’s gratifying to see those around her rally to her side. The townfolks may think she’s strange, but they treat Sookie well when the chips are down.
Sookie’s on-again, off-again relationship with werewolf Alcide Herveaux takes a few head-scratching turns, and werepanther leader Calvin continues his pursuit of her, even while recovering from his wounds. I don’t want to give spoilers, but her relationships with Eric, Sam, and Vampire Bill – who returns to the scene with ambiguous intentions but protective instincts that come in handy more than once – are further explored, with movements back and forth in at least one of them.
In contrast to other novels in the series, the love scenes are tame (there are only kissing scenes), but despite that, Sookie’s love life is getting very crowded. She holds tremendous appeal to the otherworldly creatures because she is a human with a little “extra” but they’re starting to trip over each other in pursuit of her. Sookie still hasn’t gotten over either her vampire lover Bill (her first in both categories) or Eric, so her current feelings toward men are all over the map.
The man situation and the exploding paranormal aspects of Sookie’s world have me a little concerned that the series may be headed down the path of some other popular paranormal series. Love triangles are interesting for a short time, but in my opinion a love pentagram is way too much work – for the reader and Sookie. It becomes a distraction from the main storyline, which I hope will remain Sookie. There are currently enough characters and plot threads untied to keep everyone busy for awhile, so I hope Harris elects to work with these for awhile.
There is a subplot related to the disappearance of Alcide’s ex-fiancee that is prominent in early sections of the book and resolved somewhat unsatisfactorily for me. But it’s a blip in the busy life of Sookie Stackhouse, so I was able to get past it.
All in all, Dead as a Doornail is a satisfying and enjoyable read that is worthy of the series we’ve come to know and love. My quibbles were minimal, and I look forward to spending more time with Sookie in the next installment.