Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

This post originally appeared on I Read Everything

Book: Dead in the Family

Author: Charlaine Harris

Type of Book: Fiction, paranormal romance, vampires

Why Did I Read This Book: Because despite the fact that the cheesy Sookie Stackhouse series has increasingly made me lactose intolerant, I’m hooked.

Availability: Published in 2010 by the Penguin Group, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Oh, good heavens, this was a terrible book. Terrible, terrible, terrible. Horrible, even. And yet I know that I will be reading the next in the series the day it comes out in hard cover. It’s maddening. I don’t know what bizarre alchemy Harris has discovered here because she’s not even turning base literature into gold. She’s presenting base lit, I know it’s base lit, and I devour it like it’s gold. Almost all of the Sookie Stackhouse books are like this. I know they are American cheese but I seek them out like they are caviar.

But that having been said, the weird alchemy that Harris performs fell short in this book. Her past books were so much better. Where was this book’s equivalent of really steamy shower sex with Eric? Where was the equivalent of the bloody war between the Fairies? Where was this book’s exciting werewolf one-on-one battle for supremacy? Where were the “this book” equivalents of the antics that made Harris’ past books the sort of guilty pleasure I don’t mind admitting? This book was not even American cheese. It was microwaved cheez whiz that has been left out on the counter top with the lid off. The turgid plot lines are what reel me in and keep me reading but this Sookie novel did not deliver. It just didn’t have enough of the cheesy goodness that I long for when I read Harris. There were several subplots that never delivered the visceral, gleeful punch that one needs when reading Sookie Stackhouse tales.

Plot summary: Sookie and Eric still have undead Viking/insufferable blonde human sex and are still uneasy in their relationship and nothing gets resolved. Victor is causing problems and Sookie wants him dead and nothing gets resolved. Claude moves in, with no real point behind it. Sookie babysits her young cousin and nothing comes of it. Jason is still a were-panther but has settled down and Sookie goes to a pointless cookout with her brother and his new girlfriend. Werewolves find a dead body on her property and nothing gets resolved. Eric’s maker shows up with the undead Tsarevich and it’s ridiculous as well as pointless. Sookie finds Lorena’s other “child” and the book ends after this happens and we can only hope it goes somewhere in the next book in the series. There are some little bubbles of interesting behavior but overall, there are a bunch of subplots that rattle around and ultimately go nowhere.

This trend of Harris’ to introduce all kinds of intriguing subplots, like the presence of Hadley’s son, bringing new characters and situations into the mix in every chapter, dangling them out there, then doing nothing with them aside from revisiting them blandly and pointlessly, just telling little stories that have no impact on the plot or give any better understanding of the world Sookie lives in, is wearing thin. This tendency has got to be reined in at some point – I know editors may be reluctant to lay down the law to a proven money maker like Harris, but all these tiny subplots and all these characters milling about and not doing much are diluting the fun.

There were also a lot of continuity problems in this book. If a casual reader like me noticed them, any editor worth his or her salt should have seen them, too. I think as this series grows and with its popularity, there is increasing pressure for Harris to crank novels out. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for a quality book, but I wonder if that even matters. I mean, I am slamming the hell out of Dead in the Family but I know I will continue reading the series. I suspect it will take a lot more than one complete clunker with a bad plot and continuity issues to cause most of us leave Sookie behind in disgust but it would be nice if our unconditional love for this series was respected via tight story lines and excellent plots.

However much I don’t expect the most stellar of writing in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Harris did manage to create a plot line in this book so bad that I honestly have no idea how anyone could have thought, “Hey, this is a good idea. Let’s include this hot mess and no one will raise an eyebrow.” Eric’s maker, Appius Livius Ocella comes to see Eric due to all kinds of vampire machinations. And with him be brings Alexei Romanov, his newest “son” and Eric’s “brother.”

Yes. Alexei Romanov. The one killed by the Bolsheviks. The one whose corpse was exhumed and his identity verified via DNA testing. The one who was a hemophiliac, the doomed adolescent who was shot to death in a basement with his parents and sisters. That Alexei Romanov.

How does Harris explain away all the, you know, historic and scientific evidence that Alexei Romanov died and remained dead and was not turned into a the undead by an ancient Roman vampire? Well, you see, Appius Livius knew that when the mass pit of Romanov bodies were finally discovered, it would only be a short while until they found Alexei. So the Justin Bieber-aged vampire removed his bones bit by bit to recreate his skeleton. Poured acid on the bone fragments and burned them too. Lucky for Alexei vampires can regenerate bone and heal quickly. And that there is no DNA test for vampiricism. Or that 16-year-old vampire bones produced in fragments then burned and buried for less than 20 years looked identical to the bones of Alexei’s sister, who had indeed been buried for over 80 years. Or that the Tsarevich survived the multiple stabbings and the two bullets that were put in his head long enough to be turned into a vampire.

I didn’t really object to Harris’ prior use of Elvis as he is a pop culture icon of questionable gravitas. But it was a bridge too far in terms of common sense, believability and even good taste to resurrect Alexei Romanov, a hemophiliac whose life had been quite bad before he was killed in a basement and his remains defiled, as the new sex toy for an old Roman vampire. Bleah on the whole thing.

So, all in all, this was not a good book. But that won’t stop you from buying it and reading it if you are already hooked. Just keep your fingers crossed that editors with a keen eye, common sense and feel for plot whip Harris’ next Sookie Stackhouse offering into shape before we shell out $25 for the privilege of reading it.