As most undead fans will already know, Sookie Stackhouse is the telepathic heroine of Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka the TV series True Blood), a feisty waitress working in a Louisiana bar who, over the course of thirteen novels and seven small-screen seasons, navigated the perils and pitfalls of the supernatural world while juggling romantic liaisons with vampires and shapeshifters. Sookie’s adventures were a heady mix of mystery, sex and bloody paranormal shenanigans that won Ms. Harris a lot of admirers until the final entry pissed many readers off and even resulted in the author receiving death threats, but what many people didn’t realise is that Sookie also had a life in the world of short stories. Now, for the first time, all those stories have been collected into a single volume and, as is the case with most anthologies, it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss affair.
Of the ten stories, each of which is prefaced by a brief author’s introduction, only one really strikes the right vein – a fang-sharp dissection of community prejudice called ‘Small-Town Wedding’, a tale that is more resonant than ever given the current social and political climate. ‘Two Blondes’, about a road trip Sookie takes with 160-year-old vampire Pam Ravenscroft, and ‘Gift Wrap’, a creepy little Christmas story that features Sookie’s fairy great-grandfather Niall Brigant, are worth checking out, and the murder mystery ‘Fairy Dust’ is also a lot of fun. But there are at least two big misfires – the ho-hum ‘If I Had a Hammer’ and the dull ‘In The Blue Hereafter’ which sidelines Sookie when a familiar face from Harris’s Harper Connelly series joins her at a softball game… but doesn’t know why he’s been sent there. The remainder are all pleasant enough excursions but ultimately leave little impression, although die-hard fans of the Sookie Stackhouse universe will no doubt get a huge kick from being reacquainted with their favourite characters and joining the dots between the novels and the short stories. There is some lovely character development in here, even if the tales themselves aren’t particularly successful.
Southern Vampire Mysteries aficionados will want to stake their claim immediately, but newcomers to Sookie may find this hard to dig their teeth into.
THE COMPLETE SOOKIE STACKHOUSE STORIES / AUTHOR: CHARLAINE HARRIS / PUBLISHER: ACE BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW