Tag Archives: Charlaine Harris

Review of KINDLE Ebook An Easy Death – Book 1 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris #Brainfluffbookreview #AnEasyDeathbookreview

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I’m a fan of Harris’s writing – see my review of Midnight Crossroad here. So when a steady trickle of enthusiastic reviews turned into a stream, I alerted Himself, who decided to treat both of us to this offering. Our book budget for this year hasn’t been busted – more like broken beyond repair…

Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie.

And that is as much of the very chatty blurb that I’m prepared to share. I would add that the States is very different to our version, as it also includes a Russian enclave in this alternate history where the Romanov dynasty didn’t die in a basement in a hail of bullets, but instead survived to flee across the Atlantic accompanied by their magic-user, Rasputin. As for Texoma, think Wild West complete with bandits. It’s an interesting world, where life is cheap, travel exceedingly dangerous and luxuries such as electricity tend to be erratic. Each settlement or town seems to have its own set of laws that those passing through need to know.

I really liked the character of Lizbeth Rose, whose tough, self-reliant attitude helps her bounce back after the initial devastating incident at the start of the book, which puts her in the path of the two Russian wizards. Harris is good at making us care for her protagonists and I was quickly invested in Lizbeth prevailing against the odds. This dystopian, broken-backed landscape where the remains of metalled roads and ruins of houses pock the countryside should have given this book a more downbeat feel, but Lizbeth’s first-person narrative rescued this from being a grim, post-apocalyptic exploration of a destroyed civilisation. While she mentions such features, she’s matter-of-fact about the whole business, which happened before she was born. And besides, she’s too busy trying to keep herself and her clients alive to spend too much time brooding about the past.

Harris perfectly paces this adventure, so that we have plenty of time to appreciate what is at stake, before the situation flips around to heighten said stakes and once more Lizbeth is engulfed in yet more life-threatening action. It became physically impossible to put this one down, as I kept turning the pages as if my life depended upon it – and once I reached the end of the story, I felt drained and a tad shaky, suffering a real book hangover, which doesn’t happen very often to me, these days.

If you like your fantasy with a sideorder of wild west action and backdrop, then track this one down. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one plays out on TV, too…
9/10

Friday Faceoff – And Soul Meets Soul on Lovers’ Lips…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s theme is lips, so I have chosen Living Dead in Dallas – Book 2 of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.

 

livingdead1This is the cover produced by Orbit in April 2004. It is certainly has a very different feel to most of the subsequent covers, but I think – despite the rather crude depiction of Sookie – probably better captures the tone of the book. The rather random font gives the book a rather folksy ad hoc feel that is far closer to the actual content than some of the subsequent covers, though I don’t really like it all that much.

 

livingdead2This 2009 cover, published by Gollancz, directly refers to the very racy HBO TV series True Blood. While many of the storylines are reasonably close to the books, there was certainly a lot more sex and gore in the TV series which had a far darker, Southern noire vibe than the books, which are in Sookie’s homespun first person viewpoint. I do wonder how many people picked up the books expecting a whole lot more bedroom action than they actually got.

 

livingdead5This French edition, published in August 2009 by J’ai Lu, certainly doesn’t feel the need to hold back in emphasising the sexiness of the series. Notice the prominent name check for True Blood.

 

livingdead3This cover, produced in August 2009 by Ace again references the True Blood series, but has the actress playing Sookie superimposed over the Dallas cityscape and dark sky. As Anna Paquin was spot on as the beleaguered, telepathic waitress, this works well, I think. This is my favourite cover.

 

livingdead4This is another Gollancz offering, in October 2011. The purple cover with a splash of blood glistening across it certainly is eye-catching. There is an additional quote from a review in one of our more Conservative newspapers, which has me wondering whether the publishers felt the need to distance themselves from the previous raunchy cover, though they do mention ‘sultry scenes’…

Which is your favourite cover?

Review of Night Shift – Book 3 of the Midnight, Texas series by Charlaine Harris

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I’ve really enjoyed this quirky series where Harris follows a small community, who have pitched up at this isolated crossroads in the middle of nowhere because they are all trying to keep a low profile. The first book, Midnight Crossroad – see my review here – immediately sucked me in and I have been on the lookout for the subsequent books in the series.

nightshiftAt Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town. Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place. And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be…

Once again, the residents of Midnight have to pull together to discover what is going on. I really like the premise where Harris explores slices of each character as they fit into each story, slowly revealing more about their personalities and their histories. In this instalment, the main protagonist is Fiji, the witch. She is very appealing, with her kindness and good nature, her insecurity about her appearance and her unrequited love for another of the residents. In this story, we also learn more about her background and family, when her bitchy sister comes to stay. This provides some enjoyable humour and gives us a satisfyingly awful character to tut over – as while no one in Midnight is particularly cosy, neither are they utterly repellent.

The other character we learn a lot more about is the town’s vampire, Lemuel. He is an authority on paranormal lore, so has a nasty feeling about what is going on behind the suicides at Midnight – I’m not saying more as I don’t want to lurch into Spoiler territory, but I won’t be giving away too much if I reveal that his worst fears are confirmed… Not a surprise as it wouldn’t be much of a story if they weren’t.

Harris weaves the community dynamic in amongst the dramatic happenings at Midnight, so once more we have an unfolding picture of the everyday alongside the havoc that has to be stopped. I really like this juxtaposition and find it makes this series a very satisfying read. However, I firmly advise that because of the ongoing character development, this isn’t a series to drop into halfway through. While you would certainly be able to pick up on the main drama easily enough, you wouldn’t get a proper feel for the continuing character reveal as we gradually get to know the residents of Midnight. This isn’t a demanding read, though technically more tricky to pull off than it at first appears and one I would recommend for a relaxing holiday read.
9/10

Sunday Post – 3rd July

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s lovely getting a new desktop computer, of course it is. But… then comes the grotty bit – transferring all my files and software across from my elderly clapped-out model to this shiny new beast. I’d love to say it’s all gone smoothly, except it hasn’t. I endured the ‘blue screen of death’ on Friday when I messed up loading my anti-virus program and had to prevail on Number One Son to fix it for me via Instagram. At 3 am this morning I finally had the last of my files transferred AND on the right drive – which isn’t as straightforward as it should be, in my opinion.

As a result, I haven’t come within sniffing distance of Breathing Space and am looking forward to having a chance to getting down to resuming my line edit, ever conscious that the days are not so much ticking, as flying by…

This week I’ve managed to read:
thenightmarestacksThe Nightmare Stacks – Book 7 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Alex Schwartz had a promising future – until he contracted an unfortunate bout of vampirism, and agreed (on pain of death) to join the Laundry, Britain’s only counter-occult secret agency.
His first assignment is in Leeds – his old hometown. The thought of telling his parents that he’s lost his old job, let alone them finding out about his ‘condition’, is causing Alex more anxiety than learning how to live as a vampire secret agent preparing to confront multiple apocalypses. His only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a student appearing in the local Goth Festival, who flirts with him despite his awkward personality and massive amounts of sunblock. But Cassie has secrets of her own – secrets that make Alex’s night life seem positively normal . . .

This smart science fiction/fantasy mash-up goes on delivering cool new ideas and the whole series comes very highly recommended. I’ve already posted my review of this book.

 

Night Shift – Book 3 of the Midnight, Texas series by Charlaine Harris
At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and nightshiftdramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town. Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place. And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be…

I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting yet another favourite series and love the way Harris is quite content to leave us with a slew of unanswered questions about her community of paranormal oddballs, so they can unfold throughout this quirky series. I will be reviewing this book in due course.

 

The Ghoul King – Book 2 of The Dreaming Cities by Guy Haley
theghoulkingThe Knight, Quinn, is down on his luck, and he travels to the very edge of the civilized world – whatever that means, any more – to restock his small but essential inventory. After fighting a series of gladiatorial bouts against the dead, he finds himself in the employ of a woman on a quest to find the secret to repairing her semi-functional robot. But the technological secret it guards may be one truth too many…

I hadn’t appreciated when I requested this offering from NetGalley that this was a novella and part of a series. However, Haley’s far too fluent and experienced to leave his readers floundering. The adventure whisked me up and pulled me into this disturbing, violent world – the only snag is that it ended too soon. The review will be appearing on the release date.

 

The Nest – Book 3 of Star Wars Adventures in Wild Space by Tom Huddleston
In a galaxy far, far away… With their parents held captive by the evil empire, the Graf kids could use thenestsome help. They trace their latest clue to a remote jungle world where a terrifying adventure unfolds. What will Milo and Lina find in THE NEST?

I’ve been grannying this week-end and Oscar and I have plunged back into this nail-biter. It’s been a joy watching him read with increasing fluency in his quest to discover what will happen next. I’ve ordered the other available books in the series, to his delight when he found them stacked up on my teetering TBR pile.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 26th June

Teaser Tuesday – The Nightmare Stacks Book 7 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Magic Bitter Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Real Neat Award

Friday Faceoff – Simply the Best featuring Among Others by the mighty Jo Walton

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Nightmare Stacks – Book 7 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

This moving tribute stopped me in my tracks… Somme by Jean Reinhardt –
https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/somme/

Steph produces yet another informative article on the latest happenings in Space – I really love this series… http://earthianhivemind.net/2016/06/29/waiting-for-juno/

As I’ve been grappling with my computer this week, this particular blog by Ana caught my attention. I knew some of these, but others… https://anaslair.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/the-mystery-words-on-your-screen-by-dictionary-com/

This hilarious article by Katherine had me laughing aloud during a week when the atmosphere at Higbee Towers has been somewhat fraught… http://iwishilivedinalibrary.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/top-ten-tuesday-top-ten-signs-youre-in.html?spref=tw

This is the latest in Kristen Burns excellent discussion series – and should be required reading for all authors… http://blog.kristenburns.com/realism-in-books-big-things-vs-little-things/

Hopefully, I can put my computer tech hat back in the drawer this week and concentrate more on using the darn thing for writing and editing. In the meantime, the weather continues to be atrocious – thank goodness for that spiffy roof over the centre court at Wimbledon. I hope all of you across the pond have a lovely 4th July. Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Friday Faceoff – Like One, That on a Lonesome Road

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This is a new meme started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s topic is to find two eyecatching covers featuring a road.  This book seemed the obvious choice…

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 This haunting UK cover of Midnight Crossroad was produced by Gollancz when the book was published in 2014. I’d enjoyed the Sukie Stackhouse series and pounced on this offering with joy, when I realised I could lose myself in yet another Harris world. While it does give a sense of the book, Midnight Crossroad is not quite as dark and creepy as the cover suggests.

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The US version was produced by Ace, also published in 2014. While it doesn’t have quite the intensity and power of the UK cover, it does communicate the quirky sense that something isn’t quite right about this roadside settlement.

            This week, I’m really torn. I love the arresting image and sense of menace of the UK cover – and it’s the one I associate with the book. But I think in many ways, the slightly skewed perspective of the US version better represents the book… Nope – I think the UK cover just edges it for me. What about you?

 

 

 

Review of Day Shift – Book 2 of the Midnight series by Charlaine Harris

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I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Midnight Crossing – see my review here. Would the second book be as strong?

DayshiftIt’s a quiet little town, perched at the junction between Davy Road and Witch Light Road and it’s easy to miss. With its boarded up windows, single traffic light and sleepy air, there’s nothing special about Midnight… which is exactly how the residents like it. So when the townspeople hear that a new owner plans to renovate the run-down, abandoned old hostel in town, it’s not met with pleasure. Who would want to come to Midnight, with its handful of shops, the Home Cookin diner, and quiet residents and why? But there are bigger problems in the air. When Manfred Bernado, the newest resident in town, is swept up in a deadly investigation, suddenly the hotel and its guests are the least of the town’s concern. The police, lawyers and journalists are all headed to Midnight, and it’s the worst possible moment…

Harris has set up an enjoyable juxtaposition in this entertaining read, as this small settlement contains so few people that Manfred is able to observe their lives and characters fairly easily. So we have scenes set at the diner and meetings when concerned residents discuss the hotel renovations and we get to see some of their daily routines – which is when the cosiness fades… All Midnight’s residents are concealing some sort of secret that marks them apart. And in many cases, that secret would land them either behind bars, or in some secret Government facility where white-coated scientists would eagerly be experimenting on them. It also makes a number of them highly dangerous. So the mundane is rubbing shoulders with oddness in a disturbing mix that Harris fans recognise only too clearly and the HBO True Blood series spectacularly failed to achieve. They only managed to convey the danger and oddness, which wrecked the dynamic of Harris’s storytelling.

Though as one of his client readings turns into a tragedy, Manfred’s interest in his neighbours is lessened as his involvement comes under police scrutiny. Other Midnight residents pitch in to help. Not just out of neighbourly concern – no one in Midnight wants the police knocking on doors, or enquiring too closely into their movements. At all.

What I really love about Harris’s version of American Gothic are the slices of humour, where a tight-wound situation tips into farce. A growing boy needs new clothes and everyone notices that he is literally bulging out of his apparel, except his carer, the Reverend, who wears exactly the same clothing day in and day out. So it falls upon the kindly witch to provide him with new outfits and very welcome snacks. As well as providing necessary lighter moments, it is these small details that make me bond with the characters and have me holding my breath when the situation suddenly lurches into one of uncertainty and danger. I’m only too well aware that Harris is capable of killing off one of Midnight’s main residents, should the plot require it.

Any niggles? Well, I did feel the denouement to Manfred’s problem lacked the satisfying smoothness I am accustomed to experiencing with Harris – the solution seemed slightly tacked on. But it that isn’t the dealbreaker you might imagine. Midnight has the same hold over me that Bon Temps exerted and I will happily tolerate the occasional unevenness in the plotting to experience Harris’s particular mix of charm and humour, death and alienation.
8/10

How Are They Doing?

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You’ve followed the protagonist and her friends and enemies through a whole series of books, finally closing the last volume with a sigh… So, which character would you like to revisit to see how they’re now getting on? Thanks to Anastasia, who first posed this question here, I’ve compiled my own list of top ten characters I’d like to catch up with.
In no particular order…
1. Corporal Carrot from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett – Okay – I lied. There is an order – GuardsGuardsbecause this wonderful body of work has to be one of the major starting points for any speculative fiction fan. And why Corporal Carrot out of the cast of Discworld characters? Because if anyone is liable to suddenly march out of obscurity and into a Hero’s storyline, then it’s got to be Corporal Carrot. And I’m betting even an ordinary day in his life is probably rather more event-filled than most folks – particularly if he and Angua ever get around to producing offspring…
2. Johan Eschback from the Ghosts of Columbia series by L.E. Modesitt Jr – This fascinating series is set in an alternate world where America was settled by the Dutch – and large parts of the world are uninhabitable because whenever anyone suffers a violent death, they return as ghosts able to cause havoc to the living. Johan Eschback is a retired secret agent, now happily remarried to an opera singer, who finds himself unable to turn down an offer to resume his former career in a series of enthralling adventures. I’d love to peep back into his life and ensure that he and the lovely Llysette are still thriving…
3. Jarra from the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards – This YA science fiction trilogy follows the adventures of Jarra, who is part of a minority of humans trapped on Earth due to an allergic reaction she suffers whenever travelling offplanet – leading to discrimination by the majority of humanity who have now relocated to more desirable planets. Is Jarra enjoying her new role? I really hope she retains all her energy and enthusiasm which makes her such an engaging protagonist.
4. Tintaglia from The Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb – This series of four books set in Hobb’s world concentrates on the dragons and their keepers struggling to find the fabled dragon city. Tintaglia has to be the most defiantly self-centred and arrogant protagonist I’ve ever cared about – and I’d love to know if the beautiful blue dragon is still engrossed in her own affairs to the exclusion of everyone and everything else.
5. Sookie Stackhouse from the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris – I read all the books and Deaduntildarkeven followed the first couple of series on TV until I decided that it was all a bit too gory. While the TV series followed the storyline of the books reasonably closely, it couldn’t successfully recreate the dry humour that ran throughout Sookie’s first person narrative, which makes her a solid favourite of mine. Is she still well and happy? I’d love to drop in and find out.

6. Nadia Stafford from the Nadia Stafford series by Kelley Armstrong – This entertaining trilogy features an ex-policewoman who embarked on a career as a hit woman after being kicked off the force for taking the law into her own hands. The story arc over this enjoyable thriller/whodunit series with a difference is a cracking read – and I’d love to know that if the choices Nadia finally made are still working for her…
7. Jon from the Jon and Lobo series by Mark L. Van Name – This science fiction romp is about a duo, so I suppose I should have also added Lobo’s name. Jon is an ex-labrat who has done some fairly awful things in his time – and teamed up with Lobo, a mouthy AI. Together they are a formidable twosome who try to provide might for the right. With mixed results… I love the non-stop action and sharp dialogue that accompanies this entertaining, well written offering. And would like to think that Jon enjoys a measure of peace in his life – though I have my doubts, given he has Lobo alongside…
8. Matthew Swift from the Midnight Mayor series by Kate Griffin – To say that Matthew is a troubled soul is something of an understatement, given that he’d been murdered and spent two years living in the wires cris-crossing London before being reincarnated as the spiritual saviour of the city. I’d like to think he is now putting his feet up – but somehow have my doubts. He does occasionally put in an appearance in Griffin’s spinoff series – and I wait patiently to see if he settles down. Or better still, steps away from the gruelling post of Midnight Mayor.
9. Lila from the Quantum Gravity series by Justina Robson – This genre mash-up is a tour de force and I still find myself sliding back to considering these remarkable books. The premise is that a quantum bomb has allowed creatures from other realities to bleed through into our world without anyone really noticing… And yes – you’re right. It sounds mad, but Robson makes it work. I’d love to know that Lila is still raising hell somewhere. Preferably a safe distance from where I am.
10. Devi from the Paradox series by Rachel Bach – This enjoyable space opera romp featuring adrenaline œF$¿Æ‘$8Òò¤»däå¸R8BIjunkie Devi, who gets into more scrapes than I’ve had hot dinners, is a blast from start to finish. And I’d like to think that she and Rupert are still dancing around each other and causing sufficient chaos to keep them happy, though probably – knowing Devi – she’s probably up to her eyebrows in trouble.

Those are my choices for protagonists I got to know and would love to be able to just peep into their futures and ensure everything is still going smoothly for them. Who would you like to revisit and check out?

Review of Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

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I’ve always enjoyed reading Harris – the best of the Sookie Stackhouse series is right up there as some of my favourite and memorable reads. See my review of Dead Reckoning here. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Harper Connolly books – read my review of Grave Sight here.

midnight crossroadWelcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town. There’s a pawnship (where someone lives in the basement and runs the store during the night). There’s a diner (although those folk who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s a new resident: Manfred Barnardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own). If you stop at the one traffic light in town, then everything looks normal. But if you stay a while, you might learn the truth…

Charlaine Harris was one of the guests of honour at Fantasycon 2014 and came across as a sweet natured, gracious lady with a keen sense of humour and a delicious Southern accent I could have listened to all day. It was a real fangirl moment actually seeing one of my favourite authors… But, aside from all that – would I enjoy the start of this new series?

The answer is overwhelmingly – yes. I like Harris’s chatty, easy style. She builds up a story from the ground up by having her protagonist depicting a series of everyday details about his life. I quickly bonded with Manfred and thoroughly enjoyed exploring this one-horse town stranded in this dusty corner of the States. Because the community is so small and tightly knit, when a murder does occur there are a ready-made pool of suspects – much like those country house crimes investigated by the likes of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. It was refreshing to have a main character, like Manfred, who didn’t see fit to rush around and try and solve the crime. One of the book’s strengths is that there are also a group of intriguing characters, all with an interesting backstory. Some we got to thoroughly know – and some we didn’t… I particularly liked the witch, Fiji. She is refreshingly different from the tall, beautiful heroines we regularly encounter in so many fantasy novels – short, plump, out of condition and very unsure of herself. But smitten with Bobo, who has heartbreak of his own and is oblivious of her attraction. I also enjoyed Lemuel, whose first encounter with Manfred is particularly memorable.

Because I cared for so many of the inhabitants of Midnight, as soon things started happening, I was hooked and stayed up reading faaar too late into the night. As you’d expect with such an experienced, talented writer, the pacing of the narrative arc was pitch perfect with plenty of twists that caught me off-balance and snagged me further into the book. I certainly didn’t come close to guessing who the culprit was… But before you go away with the idea that this is a cosy whodunit, there is a dark underside to this story. For all their apparent charm, there are those living in Midnight who don’t take any prisoners – literally. And Harris throws out a wider question for us all to ponder – is murder ever justified? She goes on to unpack that question quite thoroughly within the book.

All in all, this book is real treat. And I’m looking forward to the next one.
9/10

Review of Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris

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I was a firm fan of the Sookie Stackhouse series long before it got a very racy makeover by HBO in their televised version, True Blood. Read my review of Dead Reckoning here, and my review of Deadlocked here. I also enjoyed Harris’s paranormal whodunit series featuring Harper Connolly, read my review of Grave Sight here.

shakespear's landlordSo would I also appreciate this straight crime novel, introducing Lily Bard that Harris wrote pre-Sookie?  Disguising herself with short hair and baggy clothes, Lily Bard has started a new life; she’s a cleaning lady in the sleepy town of Shakespeare, where she can sweep away the secrets of her dark and violent past. However her plan to live a quiet, unobserved life begins to crumble when she discovers the dead body of her nosy landlord.

Harris has certainly given us a feisty, troubled heroine in Lily. While the novel has provided a murder victim and the puzzle of who exactly has done it – the engine that drives this book forward is Lily’s journey. While being caught up in this adventure, her arid, rigidly controlled life suddenly acquires a lot more complications – and excitement. And some of that excitement is enjoyable, while some of it isn’t…

But for all of this to work, we need to care about Lily – and Harris excels in giving us enjoyably angst-ridden heroines who we can care about. I find it fascinating how much writers reveal about themselves – and while I don’t know whether Harris is a clean freak or not, she seems to admire women who are. Whenever Sookie’s life gets way too much for her to handle, she resorts to cleaning the house from top to bottom. I just wish that I, too, responded to Life’s hiccups by wanting to tidy drawers and scrub surfaces, instead of curling into a ball under the duvet and reaching for another book… And here is Lily – who has been hanging onto her sanity by her fingernails, courtesy of her self-defence classes and the day job where she goes into dirty, untidy dwellings and blasts through them, putting everything in order, again.

So is Lily Bard just another Sookie Stackhouse without the gift/curse of reading other people’s thoughts? No. While there are similarities – they are both young women who have major issues to overcome – there are also important differences. Lily is far chippier and less caring of what other people think – and far more prone to sudden bursts of violence.  However, no matter how engrossing the main protagonist and first person narrator is in crime fiction, the dealbreaker has to be the plot and the unravelling of the murder mystery. And as far as that is concerned, Harris delivers the goods – while establishing Lily Bard as a sufficiently engrossing character to carry a series, she also provides us with an entertaining murder mystery. I didn’t guess the murderer until Lily solved the case, and the book was so satisfactorily wrapped up, Himself rushed out and ordered the rest of the books in the series. As a solid fan of her writing, I am delighted to have come across Lily Bard and her adventures and if you enjoy crime mysteries featuring spiky female protagonists, then give it a go – and whatever you do, don’t judge Charlaine Harris the writer by all the shenanigans that go on in True Blood.
8/10

Review of Deadlocked – Book 12 of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris

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Our favourite cocktail waitress, Sookie Stackhouse, is once more embroiled in another adventure… A young girl has died at a vampire party – and it looks as though her lover, Eric, might be responsible. Eric swears he didn’t do it, the police don’t believe him, and even Sookie isn’t so sure. Nor is she inclined to take his word for it, having caught him enjoying the victim’s blood minutes before she was killed.

deadlockedBut something strange is going on. Why was Sookie asked to come to the fateful party a few minutes early – just to catch Eric in the act? And why had the victim spiked her own blood before approaching Eric? Was it simply because she wanted to be irresistible, or was it something more sinister?  Sookie will have to find out… but it’s the worst moment to investigate, as her Fae family are having troubles of their own and Sookie is, inevitably, drawn in.

This is the penultimate book in the series, and I think even if you didn’t actually know it, there is a sense of Harris drawing together various storylines and starting to provide us with the concluding storylines for some of the main players in this popular, likeable series. There is a marked darkening in the overall tone of this book. Sookie is increasingly unhappy with her single status as her biological clock is chiming… There is also a significant lack of steamy sex in this book. Having turned 28 and experienced enough tumult in the last few years of her life to fell an ox (the two-natured kind, of course) Sookie is bound to be tired of constantly being in danger – and fed up with the lop-sided power ratio in her relationship with Eric. Even the most infatuated girlfriends start counting the cost when they have to continually drop everything to spend quality time with that special someone – and Eric is never going to do contented domesticity. While Sookie is, at heart, an intensely domesticated woman…

Hooray for Harris having the guts to shine a bit of honest relationship reality in amongst the supernatural murder and mayhem! So, does Deadlocked unduly suffer with Sookie so depressed? Well, the pace is certainly slower than the usual headlong rush – but that didn’t find me wanting to skim or skip. I was enjoying catching up with the other characters, while appreciating Sookie’s issues. It’s refreshing to find a feisty female protagonist struggling to cope.

Harris is clearly cranking up the overarching story climax ready for the final denouement in the final book of the series, Dead Ever After, due to be released next year. In the meantime, does the murder investigation in Deadlocked reach a credible conclusion? Yes, I think it does. Like many others, I’d already guessed who had killed the girl well before the end – but that isn’t the heart of this plot. The other issue surrounding Sookie’s unique qualities were being addressed in this book – I’m going to some lengths to avoid Spoiler territory, here – which was one plot-point waving in the wind that was starting to annoy me, anyhow. So I was quite happy to see Harris tie it into previous storylines and other characters, while providing yet more information on Sookie’s background. I happen to think that she is one of the most competently written main characters in urban fantasy and all that Deadlocked has done is confirm that opinion.

I know that I’ll miss my annual visit to Bon Temps, but the way that Harris is winding up the series makes some kind of crisis leading to a step-change in Sookie’s fortunes an inevitability. All I’m hoping is that poor Sookie ends up with someone who will ultimately make her happy – and I, for one, am not convinced that someone should be Eric…
9/10