This first novel in the Southern Vampire Series by author Charlaine Harris features an alternate universe where vampires knowingly walk among ordinary humans. As a matter of fact, they are protected by laws regarding discrimination, murder, and illegal harvesting of their blood, which has pharmaceutical properties.
In this universe, Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress at a small-town Louisiana bar and has a secret of her own; she is a telepath who considers herself “disabled” for her inability to control her unwanted talent. Naturally, she is attracted to the first vampire she meets, a homeboy-newly returned to native lands named Bill Compton, and one she cannot read like a book.
This unlikely pair must navigate romance, prejudice, and serial murder amid of setting of changing landscapes and values in an unusual urban fantasy setting.
Who is actually killing the young women, all “fang-bangers,” girls who enjoy being bitten by vampires? When Sookie’s grandmother becomes an unwitting target, the investigation is derailed momentarily, but the police seem determined to pin the crimes on Sookie’s brother. Meanwhile, Sookie has problems of her own as the vampire hierarchy that Bill must answer to discover her secret gift and want to exploit her talent.
I’ve read a book in another of the author’s series previously, the Aurora Teagarden books, but I had never actually picked up one of this series, which was the basis for the TV series True Blood, until now. I found the book to be both exciting, with plenty of action, and humorous, thanks to touches such as the “reveal” of Sookie’s boss at the bar as a shapeshifter, and the addition of the dimwitted vampire “Bubba,” a former celebrity whose change into a vampire went very wrong.
With a murderer on the loose, romance, rivalry, and a mafia-style subplot featuring the vampire organization, this book turns cozy paranormal mysteries on its head. I award Dead Until Dark five stars and plan to read more of the series in the future.