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Charlaine Harris
All Together Dead
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2007

Ace / Penguin Putnam
US First Edition Hardcover
ISBN 978-0-441-01494-1
336 Pages; $24.95
Publication Date: 05-01-2007
Date Reviewed: 06-07-2007

Index:  General Fiction  Horror  Mystery Fantasy

The gulf between what we want and what we get is some kind of measure of our happiness. The measurement presumes that we know what we want and what have actually got. 'All Together Dead', the seventh Sookie Stackhouse southern vampire novel, finds Sookie uncertain on all counts. She certainly seems to have Quinn but there's the whole were-tiger issue. And that's not even the biggest issue. Surprisingly, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina is center stage as the novel opens. It's eerie enough to read about Harris' entertaining menagerie of supernatural beings as they immerse themselves in sordid affairs and inter-critter relationships. The aftermath of Katrina adds yet another layer of reality and unreality to the proceedings. Sookie gets called to use telepathic skills to serve the vampire queen of New Orleans, and it's an offer she can't refuse. They'll all be attending a convention in the fancy-schmancy, vampire friendly Pyramid of Gizah hotel. Prepare to have your perceptions and preconceptions tweaked.

As a romantic comedy, 'All Together Dead' is well-written and imaginative — but not too much so. Sookie and her beau will most assuredly enjoy one another's company, but not in an embarrassing manner. Actually, her current relationship seems pretty stable, but everyone else around her is in flux, and the changes are affecting Sookie. Her old boyfriend, Bill, is hanging out on the sidelines while Andre is giving her some pointed attention. Then there's always Eric. Harris has a ball complicating relationships with supernatural powers and the limitations of those powers as well.

The real-world impact of Katrina is a pretty interesting way to complicate the vampire politics that drive this novel. It's only one of a number of rather interesting ways in which Harris creates a very weird sort of dissonance that keep the Sookie Stackhouse books interesting. The vampire queen of New Orleans has had her holdings trashed by the storm. It's cramping the particular style of backstabbing and murder by virtue of which she holds her place of power. All this is to get sorted out at the vampire convention, with Sookie reading those minds she can to ensure that those hoping to serve the queen are actually planning on doing so. Of course there will be a murder.

More interestingly, there will be a terrorist threat, though it's never posed as such. The Fellowship of the Sun, a batch of folks who think vampires are best left dead, have threatened to strike at the conference. As one peels away the layers of mystery, reality and unreality in the novel, we experience remarkably mixed feelings of delight. Goofy romantic comedy and slapstick humor are usually not paired with events analogous to 9/11. But Harris mixes the deadly serious with the seriously funny. The results are weirdly and enjoyably dissonant, and give this often-frothy novel a depth that makes for a more satisfying reading experience.

The satire in Harris' novel is one of the major appeals here. She's very funny and given the convention setting, she has lots of time and opportunity to poke at her targets. She's not fond of the intolerant, and they get richly skewered in her vampire-laden reality. Sometimes literally so. Harris uses the undercurrents of violence and overt violence to accent her jokes. She has lots of fun when she takes on relationships between humans and sort-of humans, satirizing soap-opera romance with supernatural humor.

Harris is an effective writer of dialogue, intrigue and plot. 'All Together Dead' is, however, definitely a series book, and if you've not read the titles that preceded it, then you'll want to do so before you start this entry. Her attempts to clean up some dangling series plot lines, alas, sometimes seem obvious and a bit rushed. But she never loses sight of the core appeal of her books; goofy romantic comedies leavened with blood and a sense of the dissonantly surreal. Religious terrorists, stone-fox telepaths and squabbling vampire clans do manage to put a smile on your face. Even if you wonder how long it can last.

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