This was such a bizarre entry in what has become one of my favorite mystery series. First of all, starting this book will be totally confusing for anyone who hasn't read "One Word Answer," a short Sookie Stackhouse story that Harris wrote for an anthology. How do I know? Because I hadn't read it by the time I began "Definitely Dead," and I was definitely confused. Sookie's cousin was murdered in New Orleans, and the Vampire Queen of Louisiana sent an emissary to visit Sookie in Bon Temps? When? Not in any of the previous books I'd read. I knew I couldn't be crazy, so I did some online research, found the short story, and was able to download it for free. Then the beginning of the book made sense to me. But how unfair is that to readers who either don't know about the story or have access to the internet? At least publish the short story in the paperback edition of "Definitely Dead" so that readers aren't completely lost. Or include a note at the beginning of the book that directs readers to the anthology. Something, anything.
Second of all, the story involving Sookie's dead vampire cousin, the core of the book, doesn't really get rolling again until around page 130. Before then, the book is strictly filler, with unimportant subplots, one involving Jason and his werepanther girlfriend, the other about a missing child, who Sookie helps find. Those aren't spoilers, folks, because these side stories have NOTHING to do with the book's actual plot. So why are they even there? Who knows? Maybe Harris is setting things up for future entries, but that doesn't make for an involving reading experience this time around.
Thirdly, I wish Sookie would settle on a boyfriend. Bill, Eric, Sam, Quinn...On the one hand, I've always enjoyed Harris's ability to keep readers on their toes and defy expectations, but Sookie is starting to look like a right little pop tart. And was it really necessary for Harris to give us a plot twist that makes us detest and reevaluate a favorite character? Again, Harris likes to pull the rug out from under Sookie (and us, vicariously), but it seemed excessive and very mean-spirited. Harris hasn't seemed to know what to do with this character for a few books now, and it shows. Fourthly, when Sookie does make it to New Orleans and the book's real story actually begins, it turns out to be an uninteresting, overcomplicated one, with a plot element that was corny when Dumas used it in "The Three Musketeers."
Lastly, Harris throws us all a curve and gives us a hint about Sookie's family background that's completely inconsistent with the rest of the series, and made for a lot of backtracking. What, is Harris making this stuff up as she goes along? Sure sounds like it. Every writer should take a page out of JK Rowling's playbook and plan a series in advance. It goes a LONG way towards avoiding this kind of sloppy plotting. And if Sookie is a -- well, I don't want to give it away -- then it means she's not a normal woman in abnormal circumstances. Which means she's not us, the reader, and that's a shame.
And did it bother anyone else that Quinn took Sookie to see "The Producers?" Why couldn't Harris just say "the theater?" There have never been other references to present day movies or TV shows -- not that I remember -- and I found it very bizarre. Maybe I just don't see Sookie liking or getting that particular show. "Rent," yes -- "The Producers," no. Maybe it's just me.
All in all, if you're following Sookie's story, you're going to want to read this one as well, but prepare to put the book down, as I did, every few days. It's that dull.