written by David Steffen
Dead in the Family is a romance/mystery/horror novel from 2010, the tenth in the Sookie Stackhouse series of novels by Charlaine Harris (which is the basis of the HBO show True Blood). The previous books are all reviewed here earlier on the Diabolical Plots feed.
At the end of the last book, Dead and Gone, Sookie was tortured at the hands of two fairies that were part of the opposing faction of the short-lived but brutal fairy war. As this book starts, she is still recovering from both the physical and psychological aftermath of this horrific treatment, with the help of her friends and her boyfriend the vampire Eric Northman. Things begin to get very complicated when Eric’s maker, the ancient Roman vampire Appius Livius Ocella, shows up with another vampire he has made–Alexei Romanov, the last son of the last Czar of Russia who witnessed his entire family slaughtered and is still suffering from emotional imbalances even these decades later. Sookie is asked to babysit the child of her (dead) cousin Hadley, who is also telepathic, and she helps him deal with social situations. Meanwhile, Bill is still ill from the silver poisoning he got during the fairy war. If his maker were still alive, she might be able to heal him, but the only chance is another vampire made by his maker–and Bill doesn’t want to contact her.
The beginning of this book was a major shift in tone from any of the rest of the series as Sookie deals with both physical injuries and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The series has always had the risk of dark consequences, but I found it very surprising that it got that dark at the end of the last book, it feels like a departure from the rest. This recovery period is just the natural consequence of that–you can’t come out the other side of being tortured almost to death and expect to have your outlook on life unaltered, but I found it much harder to read, lacking the upbeat tone that is usually present in most of the rest of the book even when dire happenings are afoot usually Sookie is still joking and referencing her word-of-the-day calendar. Conversely, though I found the change in tone a rough departure from the rest of the series, it also felt like she was pretty much fully recovered awfully quickly afterward. So, I guess I’m just not easy to please or something. But I found this book much harder to read because of that abrupt change in tone from the rest of them, while the rest of them have been smooth (if sometimes fluffy) reads.
(I kept reading, mind you, because this close to the end of the series I wanted to see how everything wrapped up.)