Tuesday, June 12, 2012

'Deadlocked' by Charlaine Harris

Reviewer: Tawdra

4 stars

It’s vampire politics as usual around the town of Bon Temps, but never before have they hit so close to Sookie’s heart…

Growing up with telepathic abilities, Sookie Stackhouse realized early on there were things she’d rather not know. And now that she’s an adult, she also realizes that some things she knows about, she’d rather not see—like Eric Northman feeding off another woman. A younger one.

There’s a thing or two she’d like to say about that, but she has to keep quiet—Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), is in town. It’s the worst possible time for a human body to show up in Eric’s front yard—especially the body of the woman whose blood he just drank.

Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s set out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down. (Amazon description)

I think it's an almost universally recognized truth that the longer a series runs, the more ammunition it offers to critics and disgruntled readers.  It's a simple matter of fact that even the most gifted author runs out of story lines or twists for the characters, no matter how many-faceted or complex those characters might be.
Toss a television component into the mix, and there's a recipe for reader discontent.

Such is the case with Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, which is often referred to by the name of its television counterpart, True Blood.  Deadlocked is the 12th book in the series, and there has been an overwhelming backlash against the book.  Longterm fans have expressed their disappointment in the direction of the story.

Like many fans, I was underwhelmed by the eleventh book of the series, and so I was prepared to be disappointed by Deadlocked as well.  And the beginning of the book bore out that fear. The story starts off very slowly, with the typical blow-by-blow telling of Sookie's day to day activities.  There is a sense of fond familiarity, as we have all come to know most of these characters well, and it was gratifying to catch up with them, much as it would be to visit with an old friend. 

However, that sort of homey storytelling is what I expect from Debbie Macomber or Philip Gulley, not from Charlaine Harris, which is why I found the beginning of the book so slow and not at all engaging. It took me days to reach the meat of the story.

There was a noticeable lack of Eric in this book, and his appearances are somewhat lackluster. There were none of the steamy love scenes that we've all come to expect between Sookie and Eric. Other than a few interactions with Bill and some sporadic sightings of folk from Fangtasia and the Las Vegas contingent, very little of the book actually included vampires. 

As the book began to draw to close, it did improve.  The action picked up slightly, and there was some resolution to certain story lines and relationships, which was gratifying.

Since we know that the next book will be the final one in the series, the direction of the story's wrap up is fairly clear by the end of this book.

I did feel that the end of the book almost redeemed the slow beginning, and ultimately, the warm familiarity of Harris's style and characters keeps the story from becoming completely yawn-worthy. I have cautious hopes that she will bring everything around next year and give Sookie the ending she deserves.

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