Title: Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace Fantasy
Making a new headway into the Vampiric Mystery end of Urban Fantasy is Charlaine Harris, making an abrupt change (well maybe not so abrupt) from crime and mystery novels into vampire/telepath crime/mystery novels.
Which isn't to make light of them. I picked this one up and was hooked, and am desperately unhappy that as I write this node, I don't know when the third novel is coming out.
The protagonist of the Southern Vampire novels (as they're neatly labeled on the cover) is Sookie Stackhouse, a fine young southern lass working in a bar...who happens to be telepathic.
Being telepathic makes Sookie's life hell...she has to work very hard, constantly, to keep other people's thoughts out of her head. And she's become something of a pariah in town, because while nobody wants to admit that she can read minds, nobody really wants to get close enough to her to find out, either.
Then one night, Sookie's life changes enormously when a vampire walks in, and she discovers that she can't read his mind at all.
After saving Bill (the vampire) from some muggers who want to steal his blood and leave him for dead, a strange romance develops between Sookie and Bill, and she finds herself sucked (no pun intended) into the strange world of vampires in the modern world.
There are echoes of the harsh vampire culture of the Antia Blake books, but without the rampant sensuality that may drive a lot of people off of those. Additionally, Bill is a remarkably refreshing Vampire character, being far more what a human would be like after living an awfully long time, rather than just some magical demon who looks suave in the moonlight.
The actual mystery (women being brutally and mysteriously killed in the area) is quite mundane, but very tight and suspenseful, well displaying Harris' 20 years of mystery and crime writing coming to the fore. The supernatural elements merely make the books more interesting, rather than actually making the book.
I would highly recommend this to anybody looking for a decent Urban Fantasy/Mystery novel...just be prepared to have to run out and buy the sequel, Living Dead in Dallas. And to pine for more...