I’ve been reading some difficult things lately, some long, obtuse, heavy works (which I’m having a rough time working through), so I thought I’d set those aside for a bit and tackle some lighter fare. I grabbed the next Sookie Stackhouse novel on my shelf, which I hadn’t read in a few years, and thought that would be a fun break from the paranormal drudgery… Maybe not…
Charlaine Harris – Club Dead (2003)
Club Dead is the third book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and like the other two books I’ve reviewed by Harris, it’s a very quick read, even for someone as slow at reading as I am. The primary plot involves Sookie’s boyfriend, the vampire Bill, who has secretly compiled a computer database of most of the vampires who are living in America. For some reason, a bunch of vampires really want this database, and Bill is eventually kidnapped—and Sookie has to use her psychic mindreading powers to find out who nabbed him. The plot on this one isn’t too deep.
The main plus for this book is the introduction of a new love interest for Sookie (I believe this is the fourth serious contender for Sookie’s affections) in the form of the werewolf/surveyor, Alcide Herveaux. Alcide is hired as a bodyguard, basically, to accompany Sookie as she searches Jacksonville, Mississippi, for her kidnapped boyfriend, and although there seems to be some chemistry between the psychic and the werewolf, the relationship has some serious hurdles to overcome if it’s going to amount to anything. Alcide’s character is funny and likeable, and he seems like a generally nice fellow, despite the fact that he spends a few nights a month running through the woods killing animals.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much else in this book that I really find that interesting. I’m not a big fan of romance as a genre, so the love triangle (actually, it’s closer to a dodecahedron) between Sookie and her suitors isn’t my cup of tea, and the rest of the book is so brutal—and the “mystery” elements are so paper thin—that this was a really tough story for me to read. You have to wonder if something difficult was happening in Harris’s life when she wrote this episode. Sookie, during her search for Bill, is sexually assaulted at a bar, beaten severally in three different scenes, staked by a vampire hating fanatic and almost killed, is essentially raped by one character and literally raped by another character who we are supposed to find sympathetic, is cheated on by two of her suitors, and even has her favorite wrap burned by a jealous ex-lover of Alcide, all in under 300 pages. And, because this book is told in first person, it feels like this is all happening directly to us. It’s a harrowing experience to go through, and all for what feels like a throw-away story. The characters even admit that the computer database isn’t really that big of a deal, although it’s supposedly the reason that Bill was kidnapped and tortured in the first place.
So with Club Dead, I would really only recommend it for people who really liked the first two books in the series and who plan to read the rest of the books. It’s not a very good mystery story, the romance elements are unfulfilling, and the horrible things that happen to the main character are sadistic and cruel, but without any big revelation or redemption at the end. If you’re planning on reading the whole series, and many of the later books are quite good, then this is a necessary step, particularly with the introduction of Alcide, who plays a bigger role later—but it’s a tough chapter in the saga. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for people with PTSD or who have lived through sexual assault. It’s a dark book, and not as funny or clever as the two books that came before or many of the books that come after.
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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