Welcome back to our re-read of the New York Times bestselling Sookie Stackhouse books, by Charlaine Harris. Today we’re discussing Dead to the World, the fourth book in the series.
Our story begins as Sookie finds a note taped to her door when she gets home from work. She hasn’t spoken to her ex-boyfriend Bill since the events of the previous book, over a week ago, and last saw him when she dropped of his computer at his house. A gesture much kinder than he deserved. His note asks her to come to the front door and let him in if she’s ready to talk. Creeper.
Bill tells her that he’s leaving for Peru shortly, on the queen’s orders, to continue his research into a vampire database. But before he goes, he explains the motivation behind his actions in the previous book. Sookie knew that he had left her for Lorena. What she didn’t know was that Lorena was his sire, as well as his former lover. Those two combined makes a very powerful connection indeed. She ordered Bill to leave Sookie, or she would kill her. Sookie does not appreciate that Bill made that decision without her, and when Bill asks if she still loves him, she replies that she’s not sure. Bill determines that his trip to Peru will be their time on a break, though there is a question of whether Sookie even bothers to consider it a “break” or if they are just “done.”
In the next scene, Sookie is cleaning up at Merlotte’s after working the New Year’s Eve shift, exhausted from the cacophony of all those thoughts. But she’d survived it, as well as the insults from the customers over her relationship with Bill. Jason visits the bar with a new girl—by her red and snarly thoughts, Sookie knows that she is a shapeshifter. But she isn’t the only supernatural at the bar. There’s a tall and gorgeous woman, flirting with everyone in her radius. While Sookie doesn’t know what she is, she does know that she is supernatural. Don’t worry, we’ll find out her kind later in the book!
Before all the employees leave the bar for the night, they share their resolutions for the new year. Sookie’s is to not get beaten up or sent to the hospital, and to just generally stay out of trouble. We’ll see how well that works out! Sure enough, as Sookie is driving home, there is a man running on the side of the road. At 3 AM. Wearing only jeans. As a woman alone she’s not sure if she should stop, but she does pull over and ask if he needs help. When he turns to her, she realizes it is Eric Northman, vampire sheriff of Area 5. He doesn’t know where he is, or who he is, or anything at all about himself. The normally confident Eric is forlorn and scared, so Sookie takes him home with until she can figure out what to do.
Sookie brings him into her house, and helps him clean up. And she realizes that something is definitely wrong—Eric is not his usual self. Sookie calls Pam, Eric’s second, and she shares that they are dealing with a witch-related problems. She asks Sookie to keep Eric until sundown, and Sookie takes Eric to Bill’s hidey-hole in her closet. It’s a pretty hilarious scene—Sookie describes Eric as “clutching the afghan, he trailed down the hall after me, a snow white giant in tiny red underwear.” He doesn’t want to get in the hidey-hole yet, so he gives Sookie puppy dog eyes until she lets him stay with her. And though she didn’t expressly give him permission, he climbs into bed with her, and they fall asleep holding hands.
When she wakes, Eric is safely ensconced in the hidey-hole, and Jason stops by. He asks Sookie her opinion about his new girl, and she bluntly states that he shouldn’t date her anymore. He thinks that is a shame, as she’s a “tiger in the sack” and Sookie takes him literally for a moment, accidentally revealing that it is possible to actually turn into a tiger. Jason wishes he didn’t know that information. But he’s willing to help Sookie, when she asks him to buy clothing for a man, as well as synthetic blood. Eric enters and introduces himself, and Jason informs him that if he gets Sookie hurt, he’ll be in a world of trouble. Not that he can back up that statement with a vampire, but it’s a nice gesture. When Jason leaves, Eric realizes that he can tell what Sookie is feeling. That means she has had his blood, though Sookie denies that they have been lovers. This makes him even more attached to Sookie, and when Chow and Pam arrive, he asks Sookie to stay with him as they talk. Jason arrives with Eric’s clothing, and tells them that there are wanted posters up all over town, offering a reward of $50,000 for any sighting of Eric.
Pam and Chow instantly want to take Jason (and possibly Sookie!) out of the picture—he’s seen Eric, and he would want the money. But they all take a deep breath, and Pam tells them the whole story. Several nights ago, at Fangtasia, they heard that a coven of witches had arrived in Shreveport. In Harris’s mythology, witches are formidable and powerful. As a vampire’s existence is rooted in magic, witches are quite dangerous for them. This group of witches is particularly powerful, and came to Shreveport demanding to take over Eric’s business. If he refused, they required payment to leave him alone. Their leaders—Hallow and her brother—made it clear that they could curse Fangtasia employees, turn drinks bad, cause patrons to injure themselves and sue, and so on. In addition, Hallow wanted Eric, and told him that if he would “entertain” her for seven nights, she would only ask for ⅕ of his business, rather than ½.
At this, Jason is impressed by Eric’s reputation, and Eric himself is pleased to hear he is considered a Romeo, and looks at Sookie in a new light. Back to the story, Eric refused Hallow, and insulted her in the process. Pam and Chow were arguing with him about the matter when he just disappeared from Fangtasia, and apparently reappeared on the road where Sookie found him. Jason suggests that Eric stay with Sookie, as no one really knows of their association and would have no thought to look for him with her. Jason also insists that Sookie get paid for keeping Eric, as her life is at risk, as much as an informant would get—$50,000. They settle on $35,000 as a compromise. Why can the witches not just cast a spell to find Eric, you might ask? They can’t get into his resting place to find hair or clothes, and they don’t know of anyone who has his blood. Good thing they don’t know about Sookie….
Once everyone leaves, Eric asks Sookie about her life, particularly about Bill and the events of Club Dead. After an interesting conversation about vampire nature, Eric settles down to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a good laugh. He slides into bed with Sookie as she is going to sleep, and they both sleep next to each other that night.
The next morning, Jason’s boss Shirley Hennessy (also known as Catfish…gotta love it) calls looking for him. He didn’t show up for work that day, but Jason’s truck is at his house, keys inside, and the door to the truck hanging open. When Sookie calls the sheriff, though, they laugh at her and insist that he’s probably just staying with a woman. Sookie calls all the hospitals in the area, highway patrol, and women he’s dated, and no one has seen him. So she determines to go to Shreveport, to see if he is with Pam and Chow, as they left together last night. On her way, she stops by Jason’s house, and Alcee Beck, parish detective, is outside looking around on the sheriff’s orders. Jason’s house is in order, but Sookie does stop and grab Jason’s Benelli shotgun, just in case. Alcee and Sookie walk around the back of the house, and Sookie just about loses it when she sees a smear of blood on the pier by the lake. Alcee goes to investigate, and Sookie is so upset that she answers one of Alcee’s questions before he actually asks it. Alcee lets that go, and they discuss having someone dive the pond tomorrow to make sure he isn’t in it.
While she’s waiting to hear from the sheriff, Sookie determines to go to Shreveport. She’s so upset about the possibility of losing Jason, though, that she pulls over on the side of the road to regain her composure. A car pulls up behind her, and the tall woman from the bar gets out, along with Sookie’s friend Tara Thornton. Tara comes over to Sookie’s car, gets in, hugs her—she’s heard the news about Jason. Sookie takes this opportunity to ask Tara if she knows any witches. Turns out, Holly and Danielle—two women who work with Sookie at the bar—are part of a Bon Temps Wiccan coven. While Tara calls Holly to see if she’ll chat with Sookie, Sookie gets out of the car to introduce herself to Tara’s companion. The woman calls herself Claudine, and she says she’s here because of all the supernatural activity in the area—she’s drawn to the possibilities. Quite a mysterious statement, that.
Sookie visits Holly at her apartment, and Holly gives her the rundown on Wiccan culture. Holly has heard about the new group in Shreveport; unlike Holly’s group, the new coven is purely evil. Most are weres, and they also drink vampire blood, which makes them significantly stronger. Holly has visited them—they sent out a call to all Wiccans in the area to have a summit to “talk,” but really planned to take control of all the Wiccans in the area.
After speaking with Holly, Sookie still has more time before sunset, so she heads to Shreveport. When she arrives at the employee entrance of Fangtasia, the door is unlocked. Not a good sign, so Sookie almost turns around and leaves, but she hears someone moaning. She finds Belinda, one of the waitresses and a fangbanger, injured. The witches had tried to force her to tell where Eric is located—she didn’t know, so she couldn’t tell them. They tortured her by shortening her leg tendons so much that they were just one big cramp. Sookie finds the other waitress, Ginger, dead in the bathroom—the witches had done the same to her legs, but she had been standing, and fell, and hit her head on the bathroom sink. Sookie feels terrible leaving Belinda, but she has to get out before she gets detained by the police.
On her way home, Sookie realizes that if the witches are that powerful, she should warn the werewolves and other supernaturals in the area. She calls Alcide Herveaux, and drives to his office nearby. Alcide is happy to see her, and takes the opportunity to apologize for leaving her during the attack at Club Dead (as he should!). Sookie fills him in, and he agrees that the werewolf packmaster should know about the situation. They both speculate about why the coven picked their town in particular to try to take over. Why Shreveport? It’s surprising, especially as Alcide shares that witches are about bottom on the supernatural pecking order.
Sidenote, Alcide is shocked to hear that Bill has left Sookie behind to go to Peru. He had heard from his ex-girlfriend Debbie that she was back with Bill. Sookie is herself shocked that Alcide actually believed anything Debbie said, which he admits was foolish on his part.
Alcide and Sookie speak with the packmaster, Colonel Flood, and relate all she’s learned. Apparently they are missing one of their own as well, Adabelle. As Sookie has given them significant information and warning, Alcide suggests that she be named a “friend of the pack.” FYI, this will be important later!
Sookie and Alcide depart to check on Adabelle, discovering her mother, Verena, at home, who sends them on to their family-owned bridal store. When Sookie and Alcide walk to the storefront, they see blood spattered all over the wedding dresses displayed in the windows, and a hand, unattached, scattered on the ground below the windows.
They are so shocked that they call the police without considering their story. The detective reveals that there were actually two women, ripped apart, in the shop. But he also asks why they were there, and quick-thinking Sookie explains that she was looking for a wedding dress—she and Alcide are engaged, and Alcide plays along, holding her close. At the same time, Sookie can hear the detective speculating about their engagement—why the wealthy and educated Alcide would be with a waitress.
Alcide calls Colonel Flood and updates him, and informs Sookie that they will take care of the situation. He departs, Sookie stops by the grocery store on her way home to get bottled blood, and runs into Hoyt Foytenberry. He spills that Jason’s new girl is named Crystal Norris from Hotshot, a town about 10 miles away with a reputation for being strange.
When Sookie returns home, she doesn’t see Eric, so walks to her bedroom, where she walks in on him pulling on his jeans. Apparently he looked particularly great, and in an attempt to avoid temptation, Sookie makes a hasty exit to take a shower. Eric follows her in, and one thing leads to another. As Sookie says, “The real Eric came with a whole package of power and politics” but this one doesn’t. Though she does admit this Eric is without the personality she’d grown fond of, she needs someone, and this Eric is there for her.
With admirable timing, Sam calls from the bar to check in with Sookie about Jason. Though she doesn’t have any news, Sookie does ask Sam about Crystal Norris and the town of Hotshot. All he can tell her, as he isn’t alone, is that it is a strange settlement, and to be careful. Sookie drives to Hotshot anyway, and finds what must be Crystal’s house. Though Crystal invites her in, she claims not to know anything about Jason’s whereabouts—Sookie knows she is lying. Their conversation begins to grow heated, when a man joins them, Calvin Norris, Crystal’s uncle. He orders Crystal to cooperate, and Sookie quickly figures out that he must be the packmaster. Though she still isn’t sure what kind of shifter they are, she has a revelation—everyone in Hotshot is two-natured.
When Sookie tells Calvin that she works for Sam, is a friend of Alcide’s, and knows Colonel Flood, he makes Crystal cooperate. Apparently she went out with Jason on New Year’s Eve, after having met him at a Walmart, and she snuck out to meet with him the next night too. Jason left her at his house to go check on Sookie quickly, and when he returned, his truck, and then a lot of shouting and noise around back. While she didn’t investigate, she caught the scent of Jason, blood, and shifter. She didn’t know what to do, so she just came home.
While Sookie fights to control her tears, Calvin walks her out to the car and makes her an offer. Now that her brother is gone, she is without protection. If she needs something, she can come to him, and he’ll “be her man.” And while Sookie could have gotten offended by this, he wasn’t being lascivious or condescending—he just intended to be nice within the social mores of his group. He has also heard that she is different, and Hotshot needs an infusion of new blood in their genetic pool. They are so inbred that they cannot always turn, and often don’t appear fully human. While Sookie may not be two-natured, she’s not an ordinary woman. Ordinary women don’t last long in Hotshot.
When Sookie returns to Merlotte’s, Sam asks about her visit, and tells her another story about Hotshot. Bon Temps’ former sheriff was going after Calvin’s older brother, Carleton, for statutory rape, when he just disappeared, his empty car found on the side of the road. He was never seen again, nor was Carleton. Moral of the story—Hotshot takes care of its own justice, and you want them on your side.
While Sookie is waitressing, two large and strange-looking people, a man and a woman, enter the bar, carrying wanted posters of Eric. It is Hallow and her brother, and they walk directly to Sam’s office. But when Sookie tries to listen in, Hallow can feel it. She even looks around. That has never happened before—no one has ever been able to tell that Sookie is listening in. Sam calls Sookie over, and introduces the two as Marnie and Mark Stonebrook. He asks her if she’s ever seen Eric, and she mentions having seen him at Fangtasia. They also ask for directions to Bill’s house, which Sookie provides, and both leave to check his house for Eric.
When Hallow and Mark leave, Sam confirms that they are sending witches to check with all the vampires for Eric. Sookie fills him in a bit on the situation, before she leaves work to check on Eric. When she arrives, Eric comes out to meet her, grabbing her and kissing her. When Sookie tells him that they have to hide, it hurts Eric’s pride, so of course he immediately wants to investigate matters. He slings her up to ride piggy back as he slinks towards Bill’s house. They hear Hallow and Mark talking in the house. But Hallow smells something, and Mark changes into a were, ready to attack. Sookie is sure that they are going to be found, but it seems Colonel Flood’s werewolves have chosen this moment to make their move, and have Bill’s house surrounded. Hallow and Mark make their escape, Eric chases them unsuccessfully, while Sam-as-the-dog-Dean appears at Sookie’s side. Once Hallow and Mark are gone, Sookie walks out of the woods towards the wolves surrounding the house. The largest one (Alcide) grabs her by the sleeve and encourages her to walk over. It seems when Marc and Hallow left, they hit a wolf with their car, a young woman named Maria Star Cooper, and she is terribly injured. Sookie takes Maria to the hospital, and is questioned by cops for her involvement. She tells them that she found her by the side of the road, and brought her in, and while the cops make the connection between her last name, and Jason’s disappearance, all they do is comment on her streak of bad luck.A doctor informs Sookie that Maria is stable, and that she will be airlifted to Shreveport, but before she leaves. Sookie visits Maria and whispers her version of the story, so that they will be in accord.
Sookie is exhausted driving home, and apparently falls asleep at the wheel—she wakes to Claudine in the passenger seat of her car, saying “Wake up.” Sookie seems to be too tired to have much reaction to her magical appearance. When they arrive at Merlotte’s, the bar is packed full of supernaturals—the werewolf pack, Eric, Pam, Chow, etc. The vampires immediately focus on Claudine, while Alcide grabs Sookie up in a hug, as he asks Claudine, “Who are you?”
She replies, “I’m Claudine, the fairy.” And she lifts up her hair to show her pointed ears. Claudine even snaps her fingers and she’s suddenly wearing a spangled white evening gown. At this point, nothing can surprise Sookie anymore. She just moves on to business, and gives the weres an update on Maria Star, while the vampires remain focused on Claudine. The weres had followed the witches to Bill’s house, but the witches had caught their scent, spoiling the element of surprise. Pam has an update as well—one of their nest mates, Clancy, did not return last night. They received a note from the witches indicating that they plan to drain Clancy a little more each day that they have to search for Eric. Sookie cannot figure out why they are so obsessed with Eric, until she considers the potency of his blood. He’s a huge guy, so has more blood in him, and is incredibly old. Pam concludes that his blood would be worth over $40,000.
All this time, the vampires are edging ever closer to Claudine, with a dreamy look on their faces. Apparently fairy blood is intoxicating to a vampire, and Sookie has to ask Claudine to leave just to restore order. But Colonel Flood takes Claudine’s report on the coven headquarters—there are twenty witches, all of them weres or larger shifters. All vampire blood users. While the group is in the midst of planning their attack, a were named Amanda calls Sookie a vampire humper. In less than a second, Eric has her on the ground with his fangs at her throat, and it takes the combined strength of Pam and another vampire to lift him off. Colonel Flood rules that Amanda’s offense cancels out the blood Eric spilled, and the matter is settled. Sookie is in tears, though, and both Alcide and Sam are looking from Eric to Sookie, wondering what is going on between them.
To make matters even worse, Debbie Pelt walks in that instant, going up to Alcide to take his hand. Alcide knows that Debbie tried to kill Sookie, and yet is still fascinated by her. As Sookie walks out, Debbie yells “Bye Bitch!” You know, just to reinforce the fact that we hate her.
On the way home, Sookie talks with Eric about his behavior, and explains that his violent reaction to the insult was unnecessary, that she’s used to it and can handle it. Eric asks why she’s used to it, which makes Sookie thinks for a second. She’s used to people thinking she’s a crazy telepathic barmaid, not worth much. But once inside her house, Eric proceeds to list everything he finds attractive about her—that she’s beautiful and smart and loyal, fun and adventurous, brave, responsible, hardworking. And while Eric also has a bit of a medieval moment, declaring to make her his woman and have all declare fealty to her, Sookie appreciates the gesture.
By the next morning, the pond behind Jason’s house has been searched—nothing found. Alcee comes to tell Sookie, along with Jason’s boss, Catfish, and Andy Bellefleur. While they didn’t discover Jason’s body, they did find feline blood and the imprint of a panther paw. The men think Jason shot the panther, and followed it into the woods, where it killed him. Sookie is insulted on behalf of Jason’s intelligence. And keeps her speculation—that it was a shifter—to herself. The men also imply, however, that Maria Star was somehow connected to Jason, that Jason was holding her prisoner, and that Sookie somehow set her free when he didn’t come home. Sookie makes them feel ridiculous for their suggestion—as they should—and the men leave soon after. At least Jason’s boss stands up for her!
Catfish remains to tells her that they’ve gotten a search party together, to look for Jason. Sookie doesn’t actually think that Jason is in the woods, but it is worth checking. Sam is there, which helps Sookie calm down, as he comforts her as she cries. He even thinks at her, so that they can discuss the situation in private. Tara and Arlene are also there to help, along with Holly and Danielle, Kevin, etc. Sookie is touched by the number of people there. There is even a contingent from Hotshot—Calvin and Crystal, and another man—one that Sookie had seen in Hotshot exiting from a shed down the road from Crystal’s house. His name is Felton Norris. Sookie is placed with their group for the search, and she tries to distract the humans from their otherness as they slink through the woods.
Deep into the woods, Sookie hears screams ahead—she ruses to the scene, where she finds a razorback hog (already shot dead by the search party). Crystal had stumbled upon the hog, and is gored in the thigh. Sookie helps hide the shifters’ reaction to the blood and meat, and they carry Crystal to the hospital, leaving Sookie behind. Sam takes her home, and they discuss events. Apparently the Hotshot people came because Calvin wanted to show Sookie that he was willing to court her, in the Hotshot way. Felton is their best tracker, and Crystal wanted to find Jason. Sookie and Sam also have a moment, as she appreciates that he’s always there for her.
Pam left her a message informing her that the weres and vampires plan to attack the witch and her coven that night. They need her to bring Eric to join the fight, and also want to use Sookie’s telepathy. There’s nothing Sookie can do now, though, so Sam convinces her to sleep until it’s time. And while Sam doesn’t necessarily want her to go, he knows that she has to, and it’s not his fight—he hasn’t been invited. This makes Sookie feel empowered (vs. Bill’s and amnesiac Eric’s view that she’s a possession to be guarded). But when she considers that she might get beat up again, she feels a little less powerful. Jason had made a deal with the vampires on her behalf, though, so she has to hold up her end of the bargain to help them and protect Eric. Thanks a lot, Jason.
Sookie wakes from her nap to find Eric beside her, and they confess their feelings to each other. Afterwards, they drive to Shreveport to Pam’s house, but before they go in, Eric tempts Sookie by saying that that they could go back to her house, and he could stay with her forever, they could be married. They wouldn’t have to fight. But it would be a counterfeit Eric, a counterfeit relationship, and she can’t do it.
Inside, Sookie and Eric meet with the weres (including Debbie Pelt), vampires, and the local coven of witches. Pam tells the plan—Sookie goes in first, because she isn’t supernatural, so the witches probably won’t detect her. But someone should go with Sookie, and guess who volunteers? Bubba, back in town! He’s the perfect choice, as his mental broadcast is atypical. To make the reunion complete, Bill makes his entrance, back from South America. One of Bill’s first questions is: “Why is Debbie Pelt here?” Exactly what Sookie wondered. But how does Bill know her? Turns out, Debbie had joined in torturing him at the vampire compound, during Club Dead. Alcide is horrified that she joined torturing Bill, and that she didn’t tell anyone he was there. He speaks the fatal words, “I abjure you.”—a ritual of great significance, meaning that he would never see or speak with her again.
As they depart, Eric asks Pam to give Sookie the money they owe her, if anything happens to him. He also makes Pam confirm that they had nothing to do with Jason’s disappearance. As Sookie approaches the building, she can smell magic in the neighborhood, stay-away spells. Interesting that a human telepath can sense that, isn’t it? Because she knows there is a spell, she can walk through it, while regular humans would have unknowingly avoided the place altogether. Sookie counts the thought patterns in the building—15, everyone awake. She listens to their thoughts, sends Bubba to report on Pam, and shortly after, is seized from behind. Sookie uses a self-defense move she’s seen Sam use, and grabs the knife from her, holding her down. Her attacker is Holly—the witches had threatened her son if she didn’t help them. She tells Sookie of the three others threatened into helping, and Sookie makes note of their appearance, before sending her away. As Sookie debates what to do, Alcide-as-a-wolf comes to her, and the others follow, including Bill. Sookie describes the innocents, as Debbie joins them also, hoping to earn back Alcide’s trust.
Sookie sends Bubba to the local Wiccans fighting for their side, asking them to create a spell to make the innocents stand out from the crowd. But without Bubba, Pam doesn’t have someone to break down the door and invite them in, so Sookie has to do it. Pam kicks down the door, and Sookie enters, shouting “Come in!” Then Sookie goes straight for the innocents, dragging them out of the way. The last one, a young girl, is already dead. That done, Sookie tries to get out, but a wolf grabs her pant leg and drags her back. Mark begins a spell that creates a fog so thick that no one can see, and Sookie cannot find the exit. The wolf holding her morphs into Hallow, and Sookie escapes from her, only to be grabbed by another witch. She bites that witch to get away, and in the fog, she sees Mark fall dead. Sookie manages to grab the knife the witches were using for the ritual, just as the local coven makes it rain inside the building, wiping out the fog. Once the fog disappears, Debbie Pelt lunges directly at Sookie and snaps at her, about to tear out her throat. Sookie falls back, and brandishes the knife at her. A big hand (Eric?) tears her off, and a wolf knocks Sookie down to protect her, before bounding at another wolf. Meanwhile, Pam and Hallow are caught in a catfight, Pam winning until a witch crawls over and bites Pam as she is holding Hallow down, draining her bit by bit. Sookie threatens him with a knife until he moves off of Pam and onto her, driving the knife into his own throat.
Sookie lies on her back as the thoughts of everyone overwhelm her mind. Chow is dead, and a few weres are dead or gravely injured. At the same time, Debbie Pelt approaches Alcide and tries to check his wounds, until he bites her and growls at her. She glares at Sookie, as Alcide’s decision is her fault. Sookie knows Debbie will be out to get her. But on a positive note, Amanda comes over to apologize for insulting her earlier, and Alcide crawls over to check on Sookie.
In the aftermath, Pam decided to burn the building down, with the bodies of the coven inside it. Hallow was still alive, thank goodness, so that they could make her help un-hex Eric. Everyone seems to be busy with something, but Sookie is unsure what to do—she doesn’t seem to be needed. So she just leaves. Eric runs after her, worried because she’d left. He begs her to take him home with her, and she agrees. He carries her back to the car, and Sookie is surprised to find that she’s crying. They finally make it home, and Sookie walks in hoping to get a hot shower and go to sleep.
But Debbie Pelt is waiting for her, gun in hand. She fires immediately, but hadn’t counted on Eric being with Sookie. He takes the bullet meant for Sookie right in the chest, and collapses to the floor. Sookie grabs Jason’s shotgun and shoots Debbie, while she’s still staring at Eric. That one shot, and she’s dead.
Sookie is about to call the police when she realizes that would only make things worse. So she helps Eric up and feeds him True Blood, watching as the bullet pops out and the wound heals. Sookie feels so guilty for killing Debbie, but Eric insists that she had no choice—it was self-defense, kill or be killed. His logic does help, and Sookie determines to leave the judgment to God. Not that she’s over the incident, but she puts it aside to deal with the cleanup. They place Debbie’s body in a bag, and Eric buries her, concealing the grave, while Sookie cleans and washes everything in the vicinity. Eric drives her car elsewhere, and they both settle in for the night.
When Eric wakes up at dusk the next day, Hallow’s spell is broken, and he has no memory of the events of the past few days, including his time with Sookie and Debbie’s death. He’s back to his old teasing, flirtatious, suggestive self, with no idea that they actually have been lovers. When Pam arrives, Sookie quietly leaves for work, avoiding any awkward conversations. She fills Sam in on the battle, and he tells her that Calvin stopped by to continue his courtship of her. Sookie has assumed that the Hotshot shifters are wolves, but Sam corrects that assumption—they’re panthers. Lightbulb! Apparently Felton is in love with Crystal. Sam and Sookie immediately leave for Hotshot and go straight to Calvin’s house, telling him of their suspicions.
Calvin takes them both to Felton’s house, and they find Jason hidden in a shed in the back. Jason is filthy and freezing, and has been bitten many, many times. Felton was hoping to make him like him—a panther—so that Crystal wouldn’t choose Jason for his humanity. They’re supposed to breed outside Hotshot, and Felton wanted to take Jason out of the running. But Jason won’t change into a panther, just the half-human half-animal monsters of movie myth.
Calvin tells Sookie that they will take care of Felton, and asks whether she will go to the police. She says no—Jason will need the were-panthers, and they cannot afford to make them enemies. She also remembers Sam’s story of those who go against the people of Hotshot. Sookie takes Jason to her home, and cleans him up, but it will be a couple of weeks until they know if the bite took. To her delight, Sookie finds a check for $50,000 from Eric on the table—the money they’d agreed upon, plus a very large tip, one that will solve her money problems for a while. She and Jason then cook up a story for the police. But there no possible explanation, so they just end with Jason saying “I have no idea” and sticking to that. He’d been pushed from a vehicle into Sookie’s yard the night before, and has no memory of anything else. Andy and Alcee about lose it over all the mysterious happenings—vampire with amnesia (Eric), fire in Shreveport (Hallow’s headquarters), and now this.
Sookie is still at home when Eric visits. Apparently Hallow held a grudge against Shreveport because the supernatural community in the area allowed her parents to be jailed for black magic practices, and they eventually died in the town. But more importantly, Eric wants to know if anything happened between them while he stayed. Sookie doesn’t tell him either way. Lastly, he asks why there is brain tissue on his sleeve. Sookie almost faints at this, but she still doesn’t tell him what happened. Amanda interrupts them with a knock on the door, inquiring about the disappearance of Debbie Pelt. It’s just an obligatory check, but Eric knows something is going on. He suggests Sookie burn her coat, the one she’d been wearing when she shot Debbie. And when he leaves, Sookie knows he will send her a beautiful coat to replace it.
He sends her a red one.
Whew, once again Charlaine delivers with the multi-faceted, complicated plot! She has quite a way of weaving several storylines together, while making everything flow believably. The Jason storyline is completely disconnected from the Hallow storyline, yet both are equally interesting and equally develop different mythological aspects of the world. Do you agree?
We receive an update on Sookie’s telepathic abilities. While Sookie can’t read vampire minds (she says she’s about as “scientific as a saltine”) her theory is that since magic animates vampires, they don’t have normal brain waves. She can’t read them like she does humans. But she does get occasional flashes from vampires, which she keeps secret. And the only vampire she’s heard twice is Eric.
Humans, though, are another matter. Sookie knows more about Alcee Beck, for instance, than she’d like—he’s a very strong broadcaster. She knows that he’s brutal to prisoners, though kind to his wife and child, and lines his pockets whenever he gets the chance. But though he is extorting the poor in his parrish, Sookie keeps her mouth shut. There’s no physical proof, and she’s not even sure the sheriff doesn’t know. This highlights, though, one of the great difficulties of being a telepath. What do you do with what you know? When does Sookie have an obligation to keep silent and respect others’ privacy, or share her knowledge? Sookie seems to think it’s a matter of danger to human life. What do you think?
Harris also continues to explore the shifter world, developing the mythology from Club Dead. And we get an answer to my question from last week (thanks to all who discussed the matter with me!). A true shape-shifter can turn into anything, but they’re rare—Sam is one of these. But most so-called shifters only turn into one animal. A shifter would call themself a “werelynx” or a “werebat” when out of hearing range of a werewolf, but just a shifter, or “two-natured” otherwise. Werewolves objected very strenuously to any other supernaturals terming themselves “were.” They’re snobby like that. And from this point on in the books, that is the definition of were vs. shifter. There you go!
Speaking of shifters, Sam really steps up to the plate in this book, and is there when Sookie needs him. It’s interesting to note that when Sookie is contemplating her desire to be a wife and mother, she determines that she could never be with a normal guy due to her telepathy. Vampires can’t legally marry yet, not that anyone has asked her. And she ends with the thought that a were or shifter might work, but where is the willing were? And Sam calls her right after that thought. Hmmm….
Eric is a fascinating character study in this particular book. We know him to be confident and commanding, flirtatious with Sookie, but also focused on vampire matters and protecting his people. As she drives into her house, she notes the new gravel on the driveway that Eric gave her in the last book, and admits that it’s a big reason why she’s helping him now. She says, “He’d had the intelligence to give me what I really wanted.” Interesting. She also says, “I’d always been leery of Eric, but I’d appreciated his mischief, his single-mindedness, and his flair. If you could say a vampire had joie de vivre, Eric had it in spades.” Yet amnesiac Eric would rather hear the story of “how they met” from Sookie, than the attack on Fangtasia. This Eric is sweet, though somewhat misogynistic, and cares about Sookie. He even wants to stay with her, just as he is. But as much as Sookie appreciates him, even now it seems the real Eric is what she wants. Do you agree?
As for Bill, I find it interesting that Sookie didn’t even consider calling him for help.
Commiserating (as girlfriends do) about Sookie’s breakup, Arlene asks “What did he ever do for you?” And when Sookie thinks about it seriously, Bill really had done nothing for her, other than sleep with her and call her sweetheart. Let’s compare that to others….
And we finally meet Claudine, one of my favorite characters. She claims to be a go-between for three worlds, in the area because of all the supernatural activity. But is that really all she is? We’ll find out soon!
Check back next week for the next book in the series, Dead as a Doornail.
Whitney Ross is an editor at Tor Books. In her free time, she’s also a book collector, wannabe jetsetter, and Starbucks junkie, and enjoys competitive sports such as skiing and shopping.