Sookie Stackhouse, the attractive, telepathic barmaid from Bon Temps, LA, makes her fourth appearance in "Dead To The World," which I think is the best book in the series, so far. Boyfriend Bill, a Civil War veteran and vampire, is pretty much out of the picture here. He has been sent to Peru, by the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, to continue his research for the extensive vampire data base he is building. Sookie has ambivalent feelings about her old beau. He has proved to have a cheatin' heart, along with other unfaithful body parts. This is unfortunate because Sookie thought she had found the man of her dreams. However, there seems to be an abundance of other men, all preternatural, who are very interested in getting to know our Sookie better. And it is best for her to stick with the superhumans. She can't read their minds, and doesn't need to worry about keeping their inner voices at bay.
Driving home from work early New Year's morning, (there was a huge party at Merlotte's Bar), Sookie sees a half-naked, shoeless man running down the road. When she stops to help the poor guy, she realizes it is Eric, charismatic owner of Club Fangtasia, and vampire Sheriff of Area 5, which encompasses Shreveport and Bon Temps. It appears that Eric has amnesia, and remembers nothing about his life except that he is a vampire. He doesn't even know why he is running, or where. He is only aware of his terror - a very strange state for the strong, confident warrior he has always been. We learn later from Eric's cohorts that a coven of powerful witches, who use their magic for dark purposes, are attempting to take control of all the supernaturals in Area 5 - vampires, werewolves, shifters, etc.. When Eric refused to cooperate with them, they cast a spell taking away his memory. Sookie brings Eric home to care for him, through sheer kindness. Her brother Jason interferes with her altruism, however, when Eric's second in command visits to figure out an emergency course of action. Eric must remain in hiding and Jason negotiates a whopping $35,000. babysitting fee for his sister. Sookie finds that Eric is no longer the suave, scary, business-first, head-honcho vampire that she had been accustomed to. He is now tender, sincere, attentive, romantic, protective of her and grateful for her loyalty and decency. Our heroine doesn't know what to make of this drastic change, until sparks begin to fly between the two. She then decides to go with the flow. After all, Bill has been gone a long time.
"Dead To The World's" pace is fast and the action is nonstop throughout. Jason goes missing, the evil witches are on the loose, Alcide Herveaux, the hunky werewolf (from "Club Dead"), and his pack become involved in what is to be a major battle between the forces of good and evil, new characters are introduced, and much more. Per usual Charlaine Harris fills her well written narrative with humor, suspense, and thrilling plot twists and turns. The finale is outrageously good! Terrific escapist reading. I couldn't put the novel down.