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Geared for the GraveThis is the first in  the Cycle Path Mystery series. Evie, an ad exec, finds herself on Mackinac Island after volunteering to help Rudy’s ailing bike hire business (who was also laid low with a broken leg) with the hope that as Rudy is her boss’s Dad, she might finally get her hands on her long awaited promotion.  Not on the Island for 12 hours, she finds herself face to face with her first bead body – Bunny the local Grande Dame. With Rudy framed for the murder and her promotion speeding away from her, Evie decides to channel Miss Marple and figure out who the murderer is.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, you were taken on a romp around the island, complete with bikes, horses, hit men, and lock picking.  Not only that, but like every small community, it was rife with scandal, internal squabbles and infighting, as well as committees and festivals to promote the tourist industry.  In short, Mackinac is a law unto itself, so when Evie, the Pied Piper of trouble turns up – the residents of Mackinac Island are happy to join in and fan the flames.

I thought that the map of Mackinac Island was a stroke of genius –  there was a lot of rushing about to different parts of the island, and it was useful to pin point where everyone was. In fact, it would have been great if it also contained where the main characters resided/worked.

One of the things I love about murder mysteries is that you can pick up clues and play along, and with this book, the cornerstone clue was lobbed in just after the murderer was revealed, so it would have been fun if there was a sniff of it earlier instead of when it was all over and done with, but that is only the tiniest of criticism and better than figuring out who the murderer was three chapters in!

All in all, this was a great book, it definitely seemed to be laying the ground for more adventures on the island and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Duffy very kindly sent me a copy of this book for a fair and unbiased review – thank you!

Sookie StackhouseI have been debating for a while as to whether I should read the Sookie Stackhouse books.  I had seen some of the TV series,  which were OK, but not something I religiously watched.   I had also read a sample passage from Book 4 in the back of another book (I love those as it’s a great way of discovering new books) and the style seemed OK, but the deciding factor was that I had found a set of 10 books for £19.99 at The Works, which pushed me over the edge 🙂

I have always loved the vampire genre with Dracula bring one of my all time favourites.  It is a genre that can be really, really good, or really, really bad.  Recently I have been dipping my toe into more Urban Fantasy/Mystery books including MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series and the Twilight books (don’t judge me!).  Like a true addict, I always like to have a new book in the wings and expanding into a new genre means that there are more books to choose from 🙂

First of all, I could see the attraction of making it into a TV series, but there were enough differences between them for me to forget about the plot lines that I vaguely remember.

Sookie isn’t a character that I immediately liked.  She seemed far too lightweight for my liking, with her only depth being her ‘disability’ of being able to read minds.  Sadly, it is this that she blames for her lack of education, social and sex life and why she is a bar maid.  I would have liked to have seen if there was more personality, but the constant descriptions of what she was wearing and then wondering why men are looking at her like a piece of meat, really didn’t help her case.  For someone who has an insight into human nature, she is remarkably naive and stupid (in spite of the repeated claims about her intelligence), set on sunbathing and wearing skimpy clothes.  There really isn’t any depth there, so don’t look for it 😉

The town of Bon Temps has undercurrents of homophobia, racism and general intolerance running through it.  Her family is dead (except her brother – more about that later), so she is relatively alone in the world.  Held back by her telepathy she has been unable to get close to anyone and has lacked any kind of male role model to show her how a man should treat a woman.  From the opening sentence, it is clear that she is fixated upon vampires as a species well before meeting Bill and I wonder if she would have fallen in love/hooked up with any vampire and even moreso when she discovers that she couldn’t hear their thoughts, as she seems to crave peace and normality.

As Sookie is able to listen to other people’s thoughts, the whole town has dismissed her as crazy, and being the accepting bunch that they are, have done a stirling job in alienating her. This has also compounded her loneliness and obsession with vampires.  There are only a few people accepting of her gifts, but only when it suits them – and even then, they don’t want the rest of the town knowing she is helping them.

This is the worse kind of small town, the residents are bigoted, ignorant and highly volatile if their daily life is threatened; even bordering on mob mentality that is reminiscent of the witch trials.  Sadly, there really aren’t that many human characters who are decent people.  Sookie’s Grandma was one of them and Sam just about scrapes in, but only just. The town’s atmosphere gets worse with the appearance of a vampire and the encroaching vampire world and I imagine that this is only the start of the erosion of Bon Temps…

Bill is the first vampire in Bon Temps, who Sookie rescued after being ‘seduced’ by a pair who were offering him blood, but instead wanted to drain him of *his* blood due its magical properties and high market value as a drug (come on, how can someone who is that old be that careless and lacking in street smarts.)  Sookie in turn fell in love with him (or maybe she fell in love with his lack of thoughts) spurred on by the idea of finally have sex, only after she was nearly killed by the people who had assaulted Bill.

While the TV series seemed to show  a relationship between Bill and Sookie, in the book, Sookie was more of a blood donor to him than a lover.  From the first time we see Bill he is putting himself in a dangerous situation to drink some human blood and it is clear that this is what drives him.  I think that Bill is a manipulative wanker.  At one point she asked him not to bite her during sex because she was getting anaemic and feeling sick and he whined that it didn’t feel the same and then complained that she tasted different when she took vitamins.  Hell’s teeth, after hundreds of years of immortality, vampire men are still self centred whiney characters bent solely on getting their rocks off, regardless of the damage to the ones that they supposedly love.  Yeah, you can tell I don’t like Bill 😉

The main story line of the first book is that women who are sleeping with vampires are being killed off, including Sookie’s Grandmother who walked in on the murderer while he laid in wait for Sookie.  Her brother, Jason, is the main suspect, especially since he had also slept with the victims and filmed his S&M activities too.  What a charmer.  In fact, Jason is the human equivalent of the vampire, but rather than blood, what drives him is sex.  It seems that he is just as brutal as vampires when it comes to that.   I wonder if this is the author showing us; that humans can be just as hedonistic and driven by instincts as vampires are.

We get to see a glimpse of the vampire world as Sookie, with her Miss Marple hat on, wants to go to a vampire bar.  Here we are introduced to Eric, who seems to want to be ‘respectable’ in going mainstream, but also doesn’t apologise for the vampires and their ways.  Unlike Bill, at least he admits his differences instead of whining about wanting to fit in, then using ‘vampire ways’ as a cop out for not revealing things.

I think that vampires are perfect in the profession of PR, and in Sookie’s world, they have excelled.  They have managed to convince everyone that they aren’t the undead – oh no, it’s a virus that makes them seem dead.  To top it all, Sookie, despite frequently shagging a man without a heartbeat who fought in the Civil War, believes it.  Then has a wobbly when someone points out that he is dead.  Good. Grief.

The murder mystery part was moderately complex, although when Sookie was ‘investigating’ and listening to everyone’s thoughts, the murderer who was frequently mentioned everywhere else, was skipped over which was something of a pointer for the reader.  I will try and hold off long-lasting judgement about the series until I have read the next book.  This book was an OK read, in that it was a quick, light, fluffy read, although I did feel empty and unchallenged afterwards.  Unlike some books, after I finished I didn’t crave to know what happened next or had questions about Sookie’s world.  However as I have the box set waiting for me, maybe it will grow on me!

Oh and finally, I did not like the murder of the cat, sure, kill off humans – but you don’t kill the animals…


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