Our reread of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series continues, with fifth book Dead as a Doornail.
“I knew my brother would turn into a panther before he did.”
With that opening line, Harris gives us a pretty good idea of the central plotline—shape shifter shooters, and shape shifter politics.
In the previous book, Dead to the World, Sookie’s brother Jason was bitten many times by a were-panther. He was not born a shifter, so he cannot turn into a full panther, but it’s possible he could react to the bites and turn into a panther/man hybrid at the next full moon. The chapter opens at the full moon, and Sookie is driving Jason to the were community of Hotshot, in case he does in fact change. Though the moon has not yet risen, Jason’s eyes have already turned yellow, and Sookie knows he will change.
Calvin Norris, were-panther packmaster, meets them in town, and promises to take care of Jason, bringing him home to Sookie’s in the morning. Such a normal conversation for such a strange interaction! When Jason walks through the door the next morning, it was clearly not a normal night—he just stalks in silence to the shower, covered in bruises and scratches. He emerges for breakfast, but can only stare at his plate before running to the bathroom to throw up. At the same time, Jason found it the most incredible experience of his life. Sookie is immensely relieved. Jason is all she has left, and she couldn’t bear to lose him.
After the events of Dead to the World, Merlotte’s replaced their cook with a woman known as Sweetie Des Arts. Quite the name, right? Merlotte’s cooks don’t seem to last very long—Lafayette was murdered, and the most recent one robbed Sookie’s best friend Arlene and ran off. We shall see how long Sweetie lasts!
As Sookie works, she notices a new vampire sitting with Sookie’s friend, Tara Thornton. His name is Mickey, and Sookie describes him as “slim and narrow shouldered with slicked-back hair. He had long fingernails and a sharp face.” Every time I read that I get stuck on the long fingernails. Pardon me, but yuck! Anyways, Tara’s vampire boyfriend, Franklin Mott, is nowhere to be seen. Later that evening, a fight erupts between two customers. Terry Bellefleur, vet that he is, can’t even pull them apart. Sookie rushes over to help, admonishing Mickey at the same time—“you could stop this.” But he says it isn’t his job. Sookie’s enough to break up the fight though (she brings a tray down on a guy’s head!), and together she and Terry make the participants leave. All seems calm once more. “Seems” being the operative word.
A stranger walks into the bar, a woman whose appearance just seems off. Sookie listens in to her thoughts, and discovers that she’s a vampire drainer. And while Sookie tries not to intervene in events she discovers through telepathy, in this case she feels she has no choice. So Sookie walks up to her at the bar, dumps a glass of wine on her for distraction, apologizes profusely as she takes off her coat, and tosses the coat to Terry Bellefleur. He has also picked up on the fact that something is very wrong, finds the vials of blood hidden in a pocket, and throws them away. Then he hands the customer her coat. While she knows what they’ve done, she can’t say anything, so she just curses at them profusely before leaving. While this incident doesn’t have any bearing on our story, it is a great demonstration of Sookie’s character, as well as Terry’s.
The next night at the bar is a busy one. Andy Bellefleur arrives with his new girlfriend, Halleigh Robinson, an elementary school teacher. Claudine also shows up, and we have our first mention of Claude, her twin brother—it seems that Sookie has had some contact with both between books. They are both fairies, living in our human realm. Fun fact of the day: fairies are violently allergic to lemon. Claudine gives up flirting with Andy after discovering he’s drinking iced tea with lemon.
Soon after she arrives, Claudine delivers some bad news. Calvin Norris was shot in the chest on his way to work, and is in the hospital. Sookie is horrified, as is Sam, and they both leave the bar together that night, talking about the events of the day. Sookie turns to say something just as Sam crumples to the ground—he has been shot in the leg. Sookie takes Sam’s cell phone out of his pocket and calls 911 with one hand, while pressing on the wound with the other. She stays with Sam as he goes to the hospital, and gets him settled, before driving straight to Fangtasia. When she arrives, she tells Pam that she needs a business meeting with Eric. Sookie chats with the new bartender, Charles Twining, as she waits. Fangtasia’s bartenders also seem to have a high mortality rate—we’ll see how long this one lasts.
As Sookie walks over to Eric’s booth, she admits to herself that she dressed to look good for him, and she appreciates that he notices the one thing new about her—her painted nails—and compliments her on it. Smart man. Eric informs her that Long Shadow’s sire, Hot Rain, is insisting that financial recompense for the bartender’s death is not enough. Eric isn’t concerned, though, as he feels the price was fair. In a mutual exchange of information, Sookie shares that Sam was shot, and will be out of commission while he recovers. Three shifters have been shot—Sam, Calvin, and Heather Kinman. Heather, a young were-fox, had been killed while drinking a milkshake at Sonic.
As they talk, a drunken young man approaches and pokes Sookie in the shoulder. He tells her that human girls shouldn’t go with dead guys. And though the incident doesn’t have much bearing on the events of the book, it does show Sookie’s ability to read people. With a few well-chosen words, she has him smiling and apologizing, leaving without starting a fight.
Back to our story, Sam hopes Eric will loan him a bartender for Merlotte’s, as hiring a new one would only put them in danger, and going to the local packmaster won’t be much help if someone is gunning for weres and shifters. Eric admits that Sam was clever to send Sookie on his behalf, and agrees to send a vampire. The terms are these: Sam provides an unlimited supply of blood and a secure place to stay for the vampire, and he will owe Eric a favor. Eric plans to send Charles, and while Charles gathers his things, Eric asks Sookie to dance. As they dance, Sookie asks Eric about Mickey, and Eric is not pleased that he’s around. He tells her to stay away from him, don’t talk to him, and don’t cross him. He will do things other vampires won’t.
When Sookie arrives at Merlotte’s with Charles, Sam is waiting. He’s in a bad mood from his injury, and carries that over into his conversation with Sookie. He plans to have Charles stay with her, without even asking, though he would never dream of asking another employee for such a thing. Sookie’s so angry that she stomps out, and flatly refuses to host Charles. Nothing against Charles, but it is not her job. The next day, another stranger walks in to the bar, a private investigator called Jack Leeds. He has been hired by Debbie Pelt’s family to find her. Sookie can tell that Jack thinks she knows about it, but still agrees to allow him to visit at 10 a.m. tomorrow, along with his wife.
As Sookie leaves the bar, Sam calls her over and apologizes. Sookie admits, “being at odds with Sam had felt wrong. I didn’t realize how that wrongness had colored my thoughts until I was right with him again.” You can’t deny that Sam is an important constant in her life.
But Sookie puts that moment behind her, and drives with Jason to the hospital to visit Calvin. A werewolf, Dawson, is guarding Calvin’s room—Calvin admits only Sookie. When she seems him, it’s clear that being two-natured was the only reason he has survived. Calvin speculates that the shooter is two-natured, if they are targeting all shifters. He also warns Sookie that his people are speculating that the shooter is one that was not born, but bitten, and wants revenge. Basically, the were-panthers suspect Jason. Sookie bursts into rare tears at this, and instantly begins defending him. Calvin counters with, “you’re a sweet woman. I wish you could love me.” Sookie wishes she could too—he would take care of her, but she couldn’t handle the isolation of that little town, or the sacrifice of her independence. Calvin could have forced her acceptance of his suit, by leveraging Jason’s life. But he doesn’t. Sookie thanks him, and leaves. Jason is horrified that he is a suspect, and Sookie believes the shooting case must be solved by the next moon, or the shifters will go after Jason.
Alcide calls that night. He is at the bar, and plans to stop by her house. Though Sookie warns him about both the shooter and the private investigators, he comes anyway. He tells Sookie how sorry he is that he ever believed Debbie, and wonders if she had put him under some kind of spell. But that’s not why he came—Colonel Flood died yesterday in a car accident, and Alcide hoped Sookie would attend the funeral with him. He agrees to pick her up tomorrow, and kisses her before he leaves. Sookie calls Tara to borrow a dress for the funeral, and while Tara lets her go in the house, she has a sleeping vampire there. Sookie grabs the dress, and makes it home in time to dress and meet with Jack Leeds and his wife. Sookie shares her version of events, and at the end, when they ask her what she thinks happened to Debbie Pelt, she admits that while she feels sorry for the family, she doesn’t really care. Alcide arrives to pick Sookie up, and they are both momentarily stunned by the other’s attractiveness. But Alcide is silent and secretive for the drive, and Sookie can tell he is worried about a were named Patrick. At the funeral, Alcide takes Sookie’s hand and leads her to sit with his father, Jackson Herveaux, and a blonde woman named Christine Larrabee, a previous packmaster’s wife. Christine remarks that they are here as decorations, support for Jackson in his campaign for the new packmaster. Apparently Sookie’s help during the Witch Wars has made her a respected friend of the pack, and her endorsement is important.
Sookie is furious with Alcide, and rightly so, for not telling her that he brought her for political support. Alcide admits that he needs Sookie to read the mind of his father’s rival, Patrick Furnan, to make sure he doesn’t sabotage the competition for packmaster. Sookie wonders why Alcide didn’t just ask for her help, but says she owes him—he knows she killed Debbie. Sookie is shocked for a moment, but that quickly turns into fury. Sookie would have helped without the blackmail, just because she cares about him. While she scolds him furiously, Sookie still doesn’t desert him, and stays at the funeral to hear both candidates’ speeches. A tall, tan, muscled man with a shaved head officiates—we’ll come back to that later.
As Alcide drives her back home, Sookie asks how he knew about Debbie. Apparently he smelled her at the house, just a faint whiff, and figured it out. He doesn’t seem to know whether he wants the full story or not, and claims not to care that Sookie killed her. Sookie doesn’t believe him, but she still tells him that Patrick is planning to use Jackson’s gambling problems against him. She had read his mind long before Alcide had asked her to, so the blackmail wasn’t necessary. And she says she doesn’t want to see him for a long time, and shuts the door in his face. The chapter ends with this great line:
They say when one door shuts, another one opens. But they haven’t been living at my house. Most of the doors I open seem to have something scary crouched behind them, anyway.
That night at the bar, Sookie is trying to listen in and find the shooter, but with little success. Sam asks her again to host Charles—apparently the closet at Merlotte’s smells like old mops. Sam explains that he is worried for her safety with a shooter about, particularly with her connection to shifters. Sookie gives in, and agrees to let Charles use her closet.
Mickey and Tara also visit the bar that same night. Sookie touches her friend, and instantly sees that something is terribly wrong—Tara is horribly tormented inside. But Mickey pulls her away, and coldly tells her to leave. Sookie tells him to leave Tara alone, or she’ll send someone after him while he sleeps. This statement is delivered so casually that it is easy to forget the courage it takes to threaten a vampire. But Tara tells Sookie to back off, that Mickey is her man, and that they’re leaving—but she says it all with very little expression. Without Tara’s cooperation, Sookie can do very little to help.
That night, Charles wakes Sookie at 3 am—someone is creeping around outside her house. Charles pursues the lurker, but it turns out to be Bill Compton, Sookie’s ex. Bill asks several impertinent questions, but after Sookie yells at him for his attitude, she explains the recent events, and makes it clear she doesn’t need him. Bill departs, and Sookie goes back to bed. A few hours later, though, Sookie is woken yet again, this time by Claudine. Her house is on fire. I know, poor Sookie can’t catch a break! Claudine just picks her up and carries her outside to where Charles has killed the human arsonist. Sookie doesn’t recognize him. And naturally, neither the fairy nor the vampire thought to call the fire department. They refuse to go back inside with the fire, so Charles runs to call from Bill’s phone. Sookie rushes back inside to grab some essentials—purse, coat, socks—but falls trying to make it out. Fortunately Claudine is there to rescue her yet again, and carries her out underneath her arm. Once outside, Claudine helps Sookie calm down, then says “You’re making it awfully hard on me.” With that cryptic statement, the fire trucks arrive, Andy Bellefluer and Sheriff Bud Dearborn with them.
Bill and Claudine stand with Sookie as she watches her home burn. Charles admits to killing the arsonist, and a nurse examines the body, announcing, “yep, dead as a doornail”—and there’s our title. While Sookie doesn’t know the arsonist, they find a Fellowship of the Sun membership card in his wallet, license issued to Jeff Marriot.
Claudine explains her presence with the line, “I’m Sookie’s fairy godmother.” Everyone laughs, but Sookie wonders if there is more to that statement. Claudine has to leave quickly, before Bill and Charles lose control because of her fairy blood.
Catfish Hunter, Jason’s boss and sometime firefighter, gives Sookie the damage on her house. She lost her back porch, her kitchen, and her car. Sookie can’t help but laugh—the kitchen, the place where she shot Debbie, the only place where traces of her death could be found, was destroyed. Sookie is understandably in shock, so Bill agrees to take her home with him. She wakes after 3 hours, and meets with her insurance agent, Greg Aubert. As he examines her house, Sookie accidentally listens in to his thoughts, and hears that he’s been casting spells to protect his clients, and to insure his livelihood. He begs her not to tell—apparently his mom was a witch, but he wanted a normal life. Sookie lets the matter go, and they concentrate on the house. Sookie has lost her stove, refrigerator, hot water heater, the microwave, washer, and dryer, as well as most of the family heirlooms of china and silverware. Jason arrives, but he doesn’t understand what the Fellowship would have against her. He doesn’t know that she was responsible for their church being raided, and their leader going underground. And Steve Newlin behind the shooting at Club Dead—Sookie foiled him there too, and it seems his followers had tracked her down.
In a show of Southern hospitality, Maxine Fortenberry stops by and insists on taking Sookie’s clothes to wash, so that she can wear something that doesn’t smell of smoke. Tara visits next, and drops of her old car for Sookie to use while she is looking for something new. Terry Bellefleur arrives after that, and offers to demolish the burned part of the house for a tiny sum. Next is Sam, with Arlene. He asks what he can do, and Sookie tells him to just keep her working, and forgive her not having her uniform to wear. Both Arlene and Sam offer Sookie a place to stay, but it just seems easiest to stay with Bill. Next Dawson, Calvin Norris’ were bodyguard, drives to the house. Calvin had heard about the fire, and sent him to check on Sookie, and tell her that if he were healed he would be over pounding nails already. His house is empty while he is in the hospital, though, if she needs a place to stay. He also asks her to tell him who did it, if it was ordered by someone other than the man dead at the scene. Sookie says she appreciates that most of all—the understated offer of revenge.
At work that evening, Sam calls Sookie into his office. Two visitors want to talk to her—Jeff Marriot’s mother and twin brother. Awkward. They say he has no connection to the Fellowship, and don’t understand why he would have done such a thing. Sookie is enraged at the whole situation—she almost died, she lost part of her home, she’s facing financial impossibilities. Dealing with the grieving family of the man who destroyed her home is almost too much—only Sam’s presence holds her back. While they talk, the police call—Jeff’s car had been found across from Sookie’s driveway. At that new evidence, Jeff’s family finally leaves.
Sam hugs Sookie comfortingly, and then kisses her. Of course, then Bill interrupts rudely, Sam lunges at him, and they start to fight. Sookie tries to intervene, and Bill almost breaks her wrists, before Sam punches him with all his shifter strength. Bill feels terrible, and apologizes—he just meant to give her a ride home from work, since her car was destroyed. And though she had planned to stay at Bill’s, after this Sookie decides to stay at Jason’s. The next day, Sookie begins clearing out her house with the help of Terry Bellefleur. As Terry is taking a load to the dump, Alcide arrives. He’s angry that Sookie didn’t call and tell him what happened right away, and is hurt that she won’t let him help. While she appreciates his concern, she doesn’t need his help, and tells him so in no uncertain terms.
Randall Shurtliff and his wife Delia arrive, the contractors. Delia shares that Jackson Herveaux’s secretary, Connie Babcock, had been arrested that morning for trying to steal personal papers from the company. Apparently she had been paid to do so by a guy who owns a motorcycle dealership. While Delia doesn’t understand the significance, Sookie is aware that Patrick was probably looking for papers betraying Jackson’s gambling addiction. Sookie also knows that drawing attention to the weres by calling the police was inadvisable on Jackson’s part—the weres would prefer a leader with more finesse. When Randall and Delia leave, Alcide once again revisits the topic of Debbie. He apologizes for upsetting Sookie, and she states that while she hates that it happened, she’s not sorry for being alive, or for defending herself. Alcide shares that the Pelts wouldn’t be pursuing this were it not for Debbie’s little sister, Sandra. Then Alcide proceeds to surprise Sookie by asking her to go steady with him, and to stay with her at his condo in Shreveport. While Sookie is very attracted to Alcide, she’s not convinced he’s over Debbie, and he doesn’t seem to grasp the full meaning behind the fact that she killed his former lover. She says that having her house burned is not a good reason to start a relationship, plus she doesn’t want to be involved in the politics for packmaster. When her house is rebuilt, then they can talk.
Andy arrives at that moment, to give Sookie an update on the arsonist—he had no prior record, or known association with the Fellowship. Sookie wonders why he would set fire to her house, then, and Andy says he hopes she could tell her that. Sookie is sick of his insults, and finally tells him off the way we’ve wanted her to these past books. She insists that she’s never even had a speeding ticket, and Andy keeps assuming she’s in the wrong. He needs to leave her alone, and find the person actually guilty of the crime.
At that, Andy leaves, and soon Alcide as well. Sookie then runs a few errands, including dropping off Tara’s newly dry-cleaned suit. But while she’s putting the suit in back in the closet, dusk hits, and now Mickey is awake. He tells her to get out—Tara doesn’t need anyone but him until he’s tired of her, and Sookie’s a bad influence. Sounds like a great guy. At least he lets her leave!
As Sookie arrives at the Bar, Sweetie Des Arts is outside. She gets a little too close into Sookie’s space, and asks if Sookie noticed anything the night Sam was shot, or whether there might be a connection between the shootings. Sookie says no, and they leave it at that. To add insult to injury, Bill brings a date to the bar that night, Selah Pumphrey, a real estate agent from Clarice. Sookie is annoyed at first, but calms down and realizes that she ended the relationship, and it is Bill’s right to move on. Charles is watching, and asks if he should give Selah a good scare. Sookie says, “Yes please.” Apparently she is not as over it as she thought.
Then Eric walks into the bar, to talk to Charles. He doesn’t seem happy, and Sookie goes over to intervene, dragging him out back. First thing, Sookie tells him he better not be about to tell her what to do, like so many of the men she’s dealt with today. But Eric’s not here for that—he’s angry that Charles didn’t protect her as he had been paid to do. Eric confesses he doesn’t care about Sam’s need for a bartender, he just wanted Charles close to protect her. Eric knows that something happened that he can’t remember, and it’s driving him crazy—he doesn’t like feeling out of control. Sookie distracts him by saying “You were so sweet when you didn’t know who you were.” Eric is intrigued, then apologizes for his rudeness and leaves.
Sam offers her the use of one of the condos he owns, while he searches for a renter. Once Sookie settles in, she visits Calvin at the hospital. On her way back, Sookie stops at the library to return a few books. The parking lot is empty, but Sookie senses excitement from another brain close by. She automatically ducks, but is still shot in the shoulder. Portia Bellefleur sees her fall, and rushes over. Sookie hears her call 911, and next thing she knows, she wakes up in a hospital bed, Jason sitting next to her. First thing out of his mouth is a comment on his happiness that she got shot while he was at Merlotte’s, because this proves he couldn’t have done it. Really, Jason?
Sookie wakes again to Bill sitting by her. While he stays with her, he also tells her that he knows she slept with Eric. And he’s jealous. Sookie reminds him that he slept with someone else before they even broke up. And while Sookie doesn’t know if they could ever have the same relationship again, she’s glad he’s with her, and she wants to cuddle. When Sookie wakes up the next morning, she finds that an anonymous person has already taken care of her hospital bill (Bill? Eric? Who do you think it was?). Adding to her shock, Claudine’s brother Claude arrives to give her a ride home. He’s his usual self—stunningly handsome and incredibly rude. He’s a stripper, but also branched into print and runway modeling. On the way home, he asks Sookie for a favor—he’s going to be in a competition to be on the cover of a romance novel, and needs a portfolio. He’s getting photos taken, and wants a blonde to be in the photos with him. He asks Sookie, and she agrees to call him when she heals and is able to participate. Claude also shares that he has met Sweetie, the Merlotte’s cook, before, when she was stripping under the name of Foxy Femmes. Apparently she was scarred in a car accident, and retired from stripping.
Shortly after Claude drops her off, Andy Bellefleur visits, to continue his investigation. Sookie reminds him that she “heard” the shooter, and he asks if there is more. Meaning, more to the world than just humans. Sookie confirms that there is a whole other world. And while this doesn’t change Andy’s life like you would hope, Sookie does see in his mind that the bullet that shot Sam was not the same as the ones used for the other shifters.
Tara is the next visitor to arrive, and she is horrified when she hears of Sookie’s run-in with Mickey. Her boyfriend Franklin owed a debt to Mickey’s master, and used Tara to pay. He passed her along to Mickey to cancel out the debt. Tara asks if Eric could help, and says that everyone knows he has a thing for Sookie. Since Tara refuses to kill Mickey, Sookie calls Eric. When she tells him she needs a favor, he laughs in delight, and drives right over. Sookie explains Tara’s situation, and Eric agrees to speak with Mickey’s master, Salome, but only if Sookie owes him a favor. He wants her to tell him everything that happened during the previous book, she agrees. She tells him everything, including Debbie Pelt’s death. Eric takes all this information pretty calmly, focusing on the fact that he offered to leave everything and live with Sookie. He calls Salome, and she agrees to remove Mickey. Mickey and Franklin were breaking vampire laws in his territory, so Salome is obliged to remove them. It cost Eric nothing, but he still used the situation to bargain for Sookie’s knowledge. But after tricking her, Eric suggests something interesting—Sookie has been around a lot of weres lately (Sam, Alcide, Calvin), so the shooter, might have smelled them on her.
Eric himself gets caught up smelling her, but Sookie is able to distract him by pointing out that a vampire outside the condo, watching them—Mickey. While Mickey isn’t invited in, he does break the window with a rock. It hits Eric in the head, knocking him unconscious. Mickey stands at the window, holding a beaten-within-an-inch-of-her-life Tara, and threatens her so that Sookie will have to invite him in.
Eric, still collapsed on the ground, takes Sookie’s arm. She says “Do it”—meaning for Eric to bite her as she tries to distract Mickey while Eric regains his strength. But to save Tara, she has to invite Mickey in. He backhands her, knocking her to the floor. He’s about to assault her when Sookie gathers her wits, and rescinds his invitation. He tries to grab Tara on his way out, but Sookie holds on to her. Eric calls Salome and confirms that Mickey is on his way, and she laughs viciously. Salome will be punishment enough for him. In the aftermath, Tara refuses to go to the hospital, Bill arrives with plywood to match the window, and Sookie is feeling incredibly awkward with her two past lovers in the same room. So she makes them leave.
When Sookie arrives at Merlotte’s, Sweetie is waiting for her, and asks how she knew t duck in time. Sookie avoids the question. After work, Sam shifts to a bloodhound and Sookie takes him to the sites of the shootings, to see if he can smell anything. Andy shows up at the last site, a little tipsy and also a little belligerent, demanding to know Sookie’s motives. And just when Sookie is defending herself, Sookie Des Arts appears, carrying a rifle. She threatens Sookie, and shares that she became a werewolf hybrid (like Jason’s panther man/wolf hybrid) after being bitten during her car wreck. Only her hands change during the full moon. She’s been shooting for three years, and has killed 22 shifters and wounded 41. But as she speaks, a werewolf is creeping up behind her. She turns, and fires, but Andy fires at the same time, killing her. Sweetie had hit Dawson, the werewolf, and Sookie rushes over to help. Andy is in shock, so Dean bites him to get his attention. Andy almost shoots Dean, then almost shoots Sookie before he calms down. He calls 911, and before they arrive he asks Sookie one thing…to confirm that his girlfriend Halleigh is normal. She is.
When the doorbell rings the next morning, Alcide is waiting on Sookie’s doorstep. He says that she is now doubly a friend of the pack, for saving Dawson’s life. She is also summoned to the contest for packleader. Later that day, she takes a meal over to Calvin’s house at Hotshot. She arrives at a good time—the living room is filled with shifters, werepanthers, werewolves, Jason, and even Patrick Furnan. Sookie visits Calvin, he eats her food, and she shares the recent events. He knows that she’s been invited to the packmaster ceremony, and urges her to be careful, before pulling her into a brief kiss. As Sookie leaves, she finds out that several of the Hotshot women are in relationships with Calvin, for continuation of the panther gene, and several of the children in the room are his.
The next day, Alcide calls on Sookie to attend the contest. Thankfully, Claude and Claudine are there, and Sookie stands with them. The men must complete three tests, agility, endurance, and battle. Then the winner must mate with another were, to ensure the survival of the pack. The men change, and the tall man from Colonel Flood’s funeral emerges, shirtless, and showing off impressive muscles. Sookie finally finds out his name—Quinn.
Both candidates passed the agility test. For the test of endurance, Sookie catches Patrick cheating, and tells Quinn, challenging the contest. There was a drug on the gloves of Patrick’s second that would numb Patrick’s skin to the pain of holding silver. Quinn declares him the loser of this section of the contest, and the pack will have to decide whether he forfeits the right to continue. Quinn calls Sookie over, and they have a pleasant moment (she blurts out “How often do you have to shave?”), before he warns her that now a good number of weres will want her dead (he shaves every morning, or before he goes out to something special. Just in case you were wondering). Meanwhile, the pack has decided Patrick’s fate. He loses the endurance competition, as well as agility. But he can stay in the running. To win, he has to win the last test decisively—the loser has to be dead of disabled. Does this seem unfair to anyone else, that the tests should be weighted so differently?
Quinn asks Sookie to listen in again, and she asks for his guarantee of safety before entering the werewolf cage. She gives the all clear, and the battle begins almost instantly—only Quinn’s quick reflexes keep her from the crossfire. As it is, her leg is wounded and bleeding. Quinn carries her over to the wall, and places her on it. Then he kneels and begins to lick the blood from her calf. Dr. Ludwig (remember her?) seems to think this is appropriate medical treatment. Sookie and Quinn have quite a moment, though it’s not the time and place.
Meanwhile, Patrick is winning the fight, and has Jackson by the throat. Quinn declares him the victor, and even after that, he crushes Jackson’s throat, killing him. After his death, Alcide is comforted by Maria-Star Cooper, clearly blaming Sookie for not saving his father from death. And Claudine is crying—Claude says as she gets closer to the light, she gets more sensitive. We’ll find out in later books what that means!
Once the signs of battle are cleared away, everyone gathers again in front of Patrick. His wife leads a young girl to him, as part of the ceremony to add to the pack. Sookie tries to leave, but Claude won’t let her—it’s not allowed.
After the ceremony is over, all weres pledge their loyalty to their new packmaster. Sookie can finally leave with Claude and Claudine, but she still has to work that evening. When she walks over to Sam, the first words out of his mouth are “My God, Sookie, Who have you been around? Where’d you meet up with a tiger?” So now we know what kind of shifter Quinn is—a very rare one. To make the day even more bizarre, Sookie breaks her silver necklace, and someone keeps calling the bar—Charles says they keep hanging up.
Then Bubba shows up at the back entrance with a message from Eric—“He’s not who he seems. He’s a hit man.” Then he leaves. Charles follows Sookie out the back, and Eric’s message suddenly makes sense. Charles had shot Sam, to make an opening for himself at the bar. Charles leaps on her, opens his mouth to apologies for what he’s about to do, and Sookie shoves her broken silver necklace into his mouth. He screams and hits her, breaking a rib, and a flood of patrons run out of the bar. In two seconds flat, Charles is held down by a huge group of Bon Temps men. Sam passes a stake on to Catfish, and while they contemplate calling the police, Charles tells them to end it. He hates jails, and failed his mission. So they do as he asked.
Eric dashes into the bar thirty minutes later. Sookie counts him lucky that the first words out of his mouth were asking if she was alright—the men of Bon Temps were perfectly ready to defend her again. Eric is furious on her behalf. He had become suspicious of Charles, and asked Bill to use his database to track Charles. They discovered that as Hot Rain was dissatisfied with Long Shadow’s death, he had sent Charles to exact payment. Charles had determined that killing Sookie would wound Eric in the way Long Shadow’s loss had wounded Hot Rain. Charles set fire to Sookie’s house, not Jeff Marriot—he kept choosing complicated methods of assassination so that Sookie’s death would look like an accident, and no blame would be attached to Hot Rain.
On a lighter note, Sookie agrees to buy three Fangtasia nude calendars from their new promotional line—Eric is Mr. January. Eric also warns her that he may need to hire her in March for a summit of vampire kings and queens. And lastly, he kisses her goodbye, leaving her with this question:
“You said I told you you were the best I’d ever had. But did you respond in kind?”
Sookie answers, “Don’t you wish you knew?”
What a tangled web Charlaine Harris weaves! Dead as a Doornail gives us a truer picture of the shifter community, its strengths and weaknesses. Let’s begin with the Herveaux family. While Jackson isn’t a bad man, he doesn’t seem to be a strong one. He struggles with gambling, can’t handle his own problems without calling in the police (which in the shifter community is a failing), and is a terribly bad communicator. His secretary-and-lover Connie would not have betrayed his gambling problem to the pack had he explained his reasons for taking Christine to the funeral.
And is Alcide any better? True Blood’s Joe Manganiello aside, Alcide is just not a winsome character. In this case, Sookie seems blinded by her own attraction to him, putting up with his antiquated view of women, fits of temper, and obsession with Debbie. She is a good friend to him, but Alcide obviously doesn’t understand her, if he thinks he has to blackmail her to help, or that she would want him to take over negotiating with a contractor for her.
Eric uses Sookie also, but at least Eric is honest about it. He cares about her, and wants to understand her. In a revealing moment, Eric says:
“I wish that I could read your mind as you can read the minds of others. I wish very much that I could know what was going on in your head. I wish I knew why I cared what’s going on in that head”
Classic “I don’t like having feelings” moment. We see the caring side of Eric, the funny side, but we also see a new, creepier side. Before Mickey arrives with Tara, Eric smells Sookie’s neck, and thinks aloud: “Should I just bite you, and end it all? I would never have to think about you again. Thinking about you is an annoying habit, and one I want to be rid of. Or should I start arousing you, and discover if sex with you was really the best I’ve ever had.” He begins with contemplating murder, and ends with wanting to become her lover again. It’s so easy to forget that Eric’s a vampire, but those key phrases make it clear once again. Eric is not human, and though he cares for Sookie, he is still unpredictable and dangerous.
On to someone a little less dangerous, and a little more annoying—Jason. While we don’t see much of him in this book, we do see one key scene, and Sookie’s hospital bedside. Rather than being concerned for the life of his sister, Jason’s first thought is selfish, rejoicing that he is no longer under suspicion for murder. While Sookie unselfishly cares for him, her loyalty is clearly not reciprocated in the same way.
We see so many aspects of Sookie’s character in this novel. Her strength in dealing with one catastrophe after another—her house burning, being shot, etc. Her loyalty even when her friends don’t deserve it (i.e. Alcide). But Sookie also admits something important to herself. “Joining in the secret clans of the two-natured and the undead made my life in human society much more difficult and complicated. And interesting. And sometimes…fun.” As much as her life in the supernatural world is difficult, at this point, Sookie wouldn’t change it—she thrives on the adventure, and her ability to overcome obstacles.
What I find most interesting, however, is Sookie’s willingness to kill. When Tara tells Sookie of her problems with Mickey, Sookie asks “Why didn’t you kill him?” and only calls Eric because Tara refuses to kill Mickey herself. I don’t believe Sookie would have contemplated murder, even of an abusive vampire, so casually in the first book. I put this question to you, readers…what, of the many events in the past five books, caused this change?
Join us next week as we read the sixth book in the series, Definitely Dead.
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.