Charlaine Harris,
Dead Until Dark
(Ace, 2001)

Sookie Stackhouse is a Louisiana waitress with a disability: she can read the minds of people around her. It's not fun, believe me -- the constant barrage of "voices" in her head keep her on the crumbling edge of sanity.

Bill Compton is dead. Or, in the current media spin, he has a "virus" that makes him allergic to sunlight, silver and garlic. He craves blood, although a bottled synthetic variety will do the trick in a pinch.

Vampires are an acknowledged part of modern society. It's illegal to kill them; at the same time, their activities are closely monitored to prevent any unfortunate "incidents."

But don't read Dead Until Dark expecting gorgeous young vampire hunters in fashionable Nikes staking rogue fiends. Author Charlaine Harris is serving up very real people in an unreal world.

Bill wants to mainstream, living among normal folk to the best of his abilities. Sookie finds his exotic nature exciting and his silence -- she can't read his thoughts -- a blessed relief. But a series of murders with possible vampire connections jumpstarts the whole town's suspicious nature. A trio of flamboyant vamps from the next town over don't make things easier for Bill -- but his moving talk to a local chapter of Civil War enthusiasts has won him plenty of loyal supporters, too.

Dead Until Dark is a comic horror mystery -- or is that a suspenseful horror comedy? The story is engrossing and puzzling, and there's even a convoluted romance and a troubled family relationship to add spice to the story. The book is funny without ever becoming silly, suspenseful without being gory, and sometimes downright erotic.

A sequel to Dead Until Dark is already on the shelves (and in our review queue). I look forward to seeing where Harris takes this brave new world.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 9 November 2002

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