A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris“A Touch of Dead”
Short stories from the Southern Vampire Mysteries
by Charlaine Harris
read by Johanna Parker
Produced by Recorded Books (2009)
Approx 3 hours

“A Touch of Dead” is a collection of short stories from Charlaine Harris’s series “The Southern Vampire Mysteries.”  For those of you that are fans of the HBO series, “True Blood” this is the series that started it all.   This title was released on October 6, 2009.  and only contains the short stories Harris has published in which Sookie Stackhouse is present.  Harris has written other stories in the Sookie Stackhouse world that don’t include Sookie and are worth checking out.

The first story is “Fairy Dust” from the book “Powers of Detection” (October 2004). It introduces Sookie’s  fairy cousins Claudine, Claude, and the deceased third triplet Claudette. Claude and Claudine are recurring characters in later books of the series.    “In Fairy Dust,” Sookie is working at Merlottes when Claudine the fairy comes in and asks Sookie to read the minds of some human guests of her brother Claude. When Sookie arrives at Claude and Claudine’s home in Monroe, she finds three people tied up in the house. Everyone involved (except Claudine) is associated with Hooligans, an exotic dancing establishment. Claude, who dances, tells Sookie that they believe that one of the people murdered their triplet Claudette while she was working at the club earlier that night. Claude explains that Claudette came to her siblings in spirit form to tell them of her death. Using her telepathy, Sookie interviews each suspect to discover the guilty party.  If only Sherlock Holmes had Sookie’s talent (or “disability” as Sookie calls it).

“One Word Answer” from the book “Bite” (2005), introduces the topic of Hadley’s death, which kicks off the events in the sixth Vampire Mysteries book, “Definitely Dead.”  The mysterious Mr. Cataliades shows up in a limousine at Sookie’s home bringing the news of her cousin Hadley’s death. The rebellious Hadley had not been in touch with the family in years, so they did not know she had become a vampire several years ago. Nor did they know that she was the lover of the vampire Queen of Louisiana, Sophie-Anne Leclerq. It seems that Waldo, a former lackey of the Queen, was jealous of Hadley’s position, so he lured her to a cemetery and killed her. Mr. Cataliades informs Sookie that Waldo has been caught, and that his punishment is in Sookie’s hands – she must decide. Her answer surprises him, and Sookie notices that it also surprises the hidden occupant of the limousine: the Queen.  In this one there were some continuity problems that were incongruent with how the story played out in the series, but this is definitely a story worth hearing or reading, especially since it’s another one involving the dimwitted vampire, Bubba, who is a famous King of rock and roll turned vampire.

“Dracula Night” is from “Many Bloody Returns” (September 2007) and is just a fun story from the southern vampire mysteries series and occurs some time after Sookie’s tryst with Eric sans memories.   Eric’s vampire bar, Fangtasia, throws a party each year for the vampire observance of Dracula Night, in honor of the infamous Count Dracula. According to legend, the Count will choose one lucky party from all over the world to grace with his presence. The book characters are amused by Eric’s childlike hope that the Count will appear at his party, just like Linus of the Peanuts comic hopes in vain to greet the Great Pumpkin.  This was a funny story due to the references to the Great Pumpkin.

“Lucky” is from the book “Unusual Suspects” (December 2008) and spotlights one of the many supernatural yet not vampire characters from Sookie’s hometown of Bon Temps, Louisiana.  Insurance agent Greg Aubert asks Sookie (and her witch friend Amelia) to investigate a break-in at his office. He is concerned that someone will discover that he uses magic spells to protect his property and his clients. Amelia and Sookie discover that the break-in was just Greg’s daughter and her secretive boyfriend, who is actually a newly-turned vampire. However, Sookie learns that two other agents in town have had break-ins, and all are getting excessive amounts of claims which may drive them out of business. It seems that Greg’s spells have been using up all the luck in town.

“Gift Wrap” is from “Wolfsbane and Mistletoe” (October 2008) and finds Sookie alone for Christmas. Her brother and closest friends each have their own plans, and she perversely chose not to ask other friends for an invitation. She recalls that she heard a noise in the woods the night before, so she trudges out to investigate. She finds Preston, a naked, muddy and bloody man, who is nevertheless very attractive. To save him from further injury, she brings Preston back to her house and shields him from the Weres who come looking for him. When he starts kissing her, he tells her to pretend she found him gift-wrapped under the tree, and she succumbs to his charm. On Christmas Day, she is relieved to find a note saying he is gone. Her great-grandfather Niall Brigant turns up on her doorstep, surprising her with his company. In the woods behind the house, Preston and a Were chat about Niall hiring them to give Sookie a pleasant Christmas Eve, tailoring the scenario to her personality, and using a bit of fairy magic to attract her.  This to me was a dull story in that there was no real mystery to solve, just a fling with a werewolf/fairy or whatever.

If you’re a fan of “True Blood” or of the Sookie Stackhouse books, this may not be a “must-read” but it is a fun one to pick up while waiting for that next book from Charlaine Harris.

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