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Cannonball Read #7: A Touch of Dead

11/23/2009

A Touch of Dead was a bit of sorbet to cleanse my palate after struggling through #6. What a relief to taste something fresh and delicious! Five short stories about the characters in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series (True Blood to HBO fans) are collected in this volume, and they fall within various places within the Sookie Stackhouse timeline.

If you’re not aware of this series, it takes place in a small town in Louisiana after vampires have made themselves known to the world. The invention of synthetic blood has made it possible for vampires to exist without drinking human blood, and now they are both loved and hated citizens of the world. Sookie herself is not a vampire, she’s just a waitress — well not “just.” She is a telepath and can read human minds. Prior to these stories, she had been involved with a vampire, loving his blissfully quiet mind. True Blood takes place when she is still with this vamp, though the book series has moved past that and has become more complex.

The five stories in this volume vary in length and strength. “Fairy Dust” has Sookie assisting two fairies we’ve met before as they search for their sister’s murderer. “Lucky” focuses on a witchy insurance agent who is using up all of the good luck in the parish to insure his clients (can I get some of that on my car?). “Gift Wrap” is a brief Christmas story with Sookie’s grandfather coming to her lonely rescue. These three are really quick pieces, and are enjoyable but too short.

In “One Word Answer” Sookie finds out that her cousin, Hadley, had become a vampire and then was later killed. In the most recent novels in this series, we found out that the cousin’s child was also a telepath, and I’m still curious about how this chapter fits into that story. Sookie’s talents don’t render her immune to vampire bites, so I guess it would be the same for others of her bloodline. It’s just a curious turn of events. We’ve never been told that Hadley had Sookie’s gift, but since Hadley passed that down to her child, she must have something in her genes. What kind of a vampire would someone of Sookie’s bloodline be? We just don’t know.

But the best story in the book is “Dracula Night”. Harris comes right out and makes the Peanuts connection for us:

[A vampire, Pam, says] “Have you ever seen It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?

I stopped in my tracks. “Sure,” I said. “Have you?

“Oh, yes,” Pam said calmly… “Eric is like that on Dracula Night. He thinks, every year, that this time Dracula will pick his party to attend. Eric fusses and plans; he frets and stews… Now that the night is actually here, he’s worked himself into a state.

And there it is – the idea that cold, powerful Eric is waiting for Dracula to attend his party is such a delightful image that it really makes the story enjoyable. I love Alexander Skarsgård in the role in True Blood, but I still don’t quite see him the former Viking of the novels. Eric is a great character, and it’s nice to see this little extra piece about him.

In fact, these short stories are all a welcome addition to the Southern Vampire series. I’ll leave it to you to find out if it’s really Dracula who attends the party, or if it’s just Snoopy in disguise.

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