Dead Reckoning: comment and review

SPOILER ALERT!

A predictive calculation based on inference; also known as ‘dead reckoning.’ This time Sookie Stackhouse has a plan, and it’s a good one!

Charlaine Harris’s eleventh instalment of the Southern Vampire Mystery series is a fulgent feast of sex, violence and rock ‘n’ roll. Fur, fangs and fae invade Sookie’s life with presumptuous pretension while an implacable mystery pervades the small town of Bon Temps.

In Dead Reckoning the lovely Sookie finds herself in a familiar position; defending her life from supernatural savagery. When Merlotte’s is plagued with a bout of ‘enraged attack’, Sam and Sookie work together to uncover both culprit and motive. But Sookie’s attention is divided. As the origin of her faery-telepathy is revealed, Sookie becomes uncomfortably aware of the fae’s diabolical nature, a trait that renders her otherworldly family utterly undependable. Consequently, the heroine cottons on to the dubious intentions of her faery housemates whose duplicitous moral stance opens the door for a little hillbilly, uncle-daddy lovin’ in a ploy to spread some fae seed – it’s not farfetched in the world of Sookie Stackhouse and we are in the South after all. Meanwhile, the vampires are a-plotting and Sookie is drawn into the petulant politics of her fanged friends. To complicate matters, Sandra Pelt is loose (and bent on vengeance), Pam and her maker are at loggerheads and Eric is betrothed to the Queen of Oklahoma… slam DUNK!

In a prolific plot twist, Sookie’s relationship with Eric reaches a climactic crossroad. The heroine’s love life is nothing if not complicated. Eleven episodes later, Sookie’s feelings are a labyrinth of uncertainty. Unsure of the authenticity of her love for Eric (and vice versa), Sookie sanctimoniously severs the blood bond that binds the lovers. So… are Sookie and Eric still in love? The answer is joyously ambiguous; in a moment of pure porn, lust is proved lucid and love, although adulterated by hormones, appears intact. Sookie’s relationship with Eric is a study on the notion of ‘serendipity’, which science says is sagacious ability to link together apparently innocuous facts in order to come to a valuable conclusion. Sookie and Eric’s love, arguably manipulated into existence, is based on context; had Eric not pressured a blood bond into being, suffered amnesia (giving Sookie a look at his pre-vampire personality), conspired with her fae family, and had Bill not betrayed Sookie at the volatile hands of Lorena etc… their love would never be. But their love IS, no matter the nature of its conception. The destruction of the blood bond does however provoke its fragility.

Sookie will not play second fiddle to Queen O, and Eric’s lust for power and prowess may encourage the union (not that he has a choice) in spite of his love for Sookie… or perhaps not? One certainty is that no assumptions are safe as far as Sookie Stackhouse is concerned.

Alcide thinks he is still in with a chance and bears all to Sookie in a revealing encounter. And then there is vampire Bill, a sexy shadow looming on the edge of consciousness… a first love that can never be forgotten. Fate often seems to conspire Sookie into Bill’s arms in the most compromising of concurrences, and Dead Reckoning is no exception. Although there appears to be no ‘Bill versus Eric’ competition for Sookie’s love, with Eric the clear winner, Dead and Gone ends with Niall telling his granddaughter; “The vampire is not a bad man, and he loves you.” But Niall disappears before Sookie can find out which vampire he meant. The fae’s cryptic message opens up a door for Bill to battle Eric in a dual for Sookie’s love as prize.

Another fabulous manipulation of plot is the introduction of the enigmatic “cluviel dor”. What ever will Sookie do with such a prize possession? It is easy to imagine that she will hold on to it, predicting that the next crisis might be even worse, terrified she will squander it. Because it is a love token, the faery relic must be used ‘for love’ and the resounding question is: will Sookie turn one of the vamps? Or perhaps one will die and she will have to save him? Is there some ‘tragic love’ on the cards for Sookie and her many men? Whatever her decision, it will be greatly significant. The cluviel dor sets the Sookie Stackhouse mythology up for a spectacular apogee. Harris was originally contracted to write 10 books, but in 2009 revealed that she had signed a contract for three additional books. Dead and Reckoning seems to have been written with an end in sight.

When the last word of a Sookie Stackhouse mystery is eyeballed, a big gaping void ensues; fans exists in a vortex of speculation that, with each passing hour, germinates into a sensational, and oft times irrational, abyss of circumspection. It’s the unavoidable impasse of an addict. Dead Reckoning oozes the characteristic blood, sex, pathos and wry humour for which the Southern Vampire Mystery series is known. Stackhouse junkies will be transfixed from start to finish.

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