Book Review: Deadlocked, by Charlaine Harris

The Sookie Stackhouse Series, Book 12

Gollancz, 2012

Sookie’s back. Again.

Deadlocked is the penultimate book in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series (the novels that spawned Alan Ball’s hit HBO TV series True Blood), and, huge fan though I was/am, I can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief at that news. What started out as an immensely enjoyable series has become a bit of a tired old beast at this point, and Harris is dancing very close to ruining a good thing. No doubt she’s aware of that fact, and perhaps is as happy as I am to finally hop off the Sookie train, fun though the ride has been.

Deadlocked finds Sookie involved in a murder mystery (again) when random were Kym Rowe is found dead on the lawn of Sookie’s vampire lover Eric Northman’s home after a bloodsucker shindig. To further complicate matters, Sookie is mixed up in fae politics (again) among her fairy kin, and all is not well in Sookie’s relationship with Eric. There’s the usual smattering of elves, demons, were-creatures, and humans-with-extras thrown into the mix, as well as the lure of the powerful fae artefact, the Cluviel Dor, left to Sookie by her grandmother.

Many of the things I love about the Sookie series are still present in Deadlocked. There’s that feeling of coming home upon opening the book and sinking back into the down-South heat of Bon Temps with a familiar and much-loved cast of characters. Harris’ writing remains accessible and consistent – even when I’m not bowled over by the book, it’s never anything less than a page-turner; I read it quickly. The shameless escapism is intact (reading the first-person accounts of Sookie’s irresistibility to all males is delightful wish-fulfillment-by-proxy), and the supernatural excitement still permeates the series…but only just.

However, there’s nothing new left under Sookie’s sun, and that’s where this series has now worn thin. It’s all been done, or so it seems. There’s nothing unplumbed in the supernatural politics and machinations of the world Harris has built. This makes Deadlocked feel like a retelling of several earlier Sookie books, cobbled together without even concealing the author’s own weariness; even Sookie seems to just be over it all. Its plot is ho-hum, the motivations of the key characters barely make sense (when the plot involving Kym Rowe’s death is explained, it’s just…silly), and I just don’t much care anymore. Also, not enough sex (or even sexiness) and vampires. The sizzling sensuality of Sookie’s previous interactions with Bill and Eric are gone, as are Bill and Eric for much of Deadlocked, and the book suffers for it. The things which always bugged me about the Sookie books – for instance, Harris’ penchant for spending large chunks of text detailing Sookie brushing her hair, washing dishes, waiting tables, peeling vegetables, running errands, etc – are still there and they’re a major issue now, because the story and vibe aren’t strong enough to compensate this time.

Overall, I did enjoy Deadlocked, because I am a fan of the Sookie series and I do love the world and characters, but I also found the novel to be one of the more disappointing ones in the series, and I’m glad it’s ending before it’s run into the ground. I’ve high hopes that the final instalment will be truly special and Sookie can go out with a bang.

Honestly, I don’t think Deadlocked‘s ultimate shortcomings can really be laid at Harris’ feet. I think she’s doing the best she can with something that maybe should’ve ended a couple of books ago. The inside back cover of Deadlocked bears the legend: “All Sookie’d Out?” and then suggests trying some of Harris’ other novels outside the world of Bon Temps. Yes, I think I just might be all Sookie’d out; but I’m not all Harris’d out. I’ll be hunting for her other books once Sookie is laid to rest. I look forward to it.

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About Felicity Dowker

Melbourne-based writer Felicity Dowker is a multiple finalist and/or winner of various awards for her short stories and reviews, including the Ditmar, Chronos, Aurealis, and Australian Shadows Awards. Around 30 of Felicity’s stories have been published in Australian and international magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, most recently including Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror Volume 2 edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene from Ticonderoga Publications, and Circus: Fantasy Under the Big Top edited by Ekaterina Sedia from Prime Books. Felicity’s debut short story collection Bread and Circuses was launched by Ticonderoga Publications in June 2012 - find out more at

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