Happy Halloween Post: Review of “Dead Until Dark” by Charlaine Harris

In general, I am wont to make scathing deprecations of vampire books. Historically, I have preferred to think of myself as sticking to a program of self-improvement suggested to me so many years ago by Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. But in reality, sometimes one just wants to have fun.


Dead Until Dark is the first book of this mystery series that features Sookie Stackhouse, a saucy, telepathic blonde, blue-eyed, 25-year-old barmaid from northern Louisiana who falls for a vampire named Bill. Bill is tall, dead, and handsome; preternaturally strong and correspondingly unhumanly gentle; and filled with a longing for love that has been building for centuries.

The author of the Sookie Stackhouse books (adapted by HBO into the series “True Blood”) has a delightful sense of humor and an impish imagination. She portrays vampires as having a social status analogous to gays: vampires can now be “out of the coffin” (read: closet); there is controversy over how they got to be that way; there are politically correct ways to refer to them; there are hangers-on called “fang-bangers” (read: fag-hags); and there is some vicious prejudice against them and occasional hate crimes. Yet this sometimes serious approach is both tempered and augmented by the author’s sense of humor.

Sookie’s telepathy also adds to the fun, especially since vampires’ minds are closed to her – which is part of Bill’s appeal. As Sookie says:

“…sex, for me, is a disaster. Can you imagine knowing everything yor sex partner is thinking? Right. Along the order of ‘Gosh, look at that mole … her butt is a little big … wish she’d move to the right a little … why doesn’t she take the hint and …?’ You get the idea. It’s chilling to the emotions, believe me.”

By the way, yes, there are sex scenes, but they manage to be romantic and titillating [sic] without any off-putting language or anatomical detail. And yes: apparently having sex with a vampire is all that it’s cracked up to be!

Best vignette:

The first time Sookie brings Bill home to meet her grandmother (with whom she has lived ever since her parents died when she was almost seven), she tells Bill: “Gran says to please eat before you come.”

Evaluation: A bodice ripper with blood, and loads of fun.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Ace Books, 2001


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18 Responses to Happy Halloween Post: Review of “Dead Until Dark” by Charlaine Harris

  1. galleysmith says:

    YAY!! I’m glad you loved it.

    Seriously, such a great read for fluffy escapism. I like that they keep interest and don’t take themselves too seriously. I hope you’re going to continue on with the series. Oh, if you do challenges BethFish Reads has a Sookie Stackhouse challenge going that you might want to join in on.


  2. Julie P. says:

    I read the first one in this series and I thought it was cute! I better get moving on the rest of them for the challenge!

  3. Marie says:

    LOL, sounds like fun! 🙂 Happy Halloween!

  4. bermudaonion says:

    You liked this one more than I did. I have heard that the series improves so I’m going to try at least one more. Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Jill, you write the best reviews. Here’s a book I know I won’t even pick up in my hands but you had me reading to the end and loving it. I confess you made the book sound a little bit attractive to me. If I could just get past that vampire thing . . .

  6. softdrink says:

    It’s Halloween…there can’t be any scathing deprecations of vampires on Halloween!

    I am seriously lagging in the challenge. I bought the first one, but that’s as far as I got.

  7. BooksPlease says:

    I’m with Margot – although you nearly succeeded in making me think I’d have a peek if I see the book somewhere. I won’t go looking for it though!

  8. Steph says:

    I’ve seen the first season of True Blood, but I’ve not read any of the books. I thought they might be good for when I’m in the mood for some fluffy reading (from what I saw from the “search inside” feature online, the writing is not exactly the stuff of high literature)… as you said, we all have times when we look for books that will primarily entertain and not necessarily educate. Though it sounds like you did discover a certain literary vice you never knew you had!

    I do think it’s interesting and clever that Harris has taken the vampire, which has traditionally been a very sexual monster, and made it a direct correlate to homosexuality in modern society. I do think that’s a great way to update the vampire and make it relevant to the times.

  9. Diane says:

    This book is so appropriate for the season.

  10. Rita K says:

    I read the Sookie Stackhouse books, too. I don’t usually read vampire books, but love all these for their humor and more! Glad you discovered them now, too!

  11. Lisa says:

    My son’s girlfriend has all of these books and one of these days I’m going to borrow the whole shebang. From the sounds of it, once I get started, I may not be able to stop.

  12. Dominique says:

    Hi! I’m glad you liked it! I enjoyed the first two books, but I really started getting into the series around book three: Club Dead. I’m up to book 7: All Together Dead now and I’m going to be so sad when there are no new Sookie books for me to read until the next one comes out.

  13. aartichapati says:

    I’ve heard so much about this series! I should really check it out 🙂

  14. Staci says:

    I think the best part of your whole review was the worst revelation of yourself!! I LMAO big time!!! I’m in that demographic too!!! Loved your thoughts Jill!!!

  15. I’ve promised Beth Fish that I’ll read the first Sookie (I didn’t join her challenge, but I’m willing to dip my toes in). Glad to see you enjoyed it!

  16. Jenners says:

    So many people have raved about these books but your review was the first to give me a good feel for what they are like!! They seem like so much fun! I have the first one and will continue to accumulate them and then enjoy them from time to time. Great review! And don’t be embarrassed …. I loved Twilight for God’s sakes!!!

  17. I love your review! Just the right amount of tongue-and-cheek! I love this series so far. I finished book 2 and have three and four in the stack. i foolishly joined another challenge–the sookie stackhouse reading challenge–thanks to BethFishReads

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