|Publication date||May 2006|
|Previous book||Dead as a Doornail|
|Next book||All Together Dead|
At the request of the Louisiana vampire queen, Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Sookie Stackhouse plans to go to New Orleans to sort out the affairs of her cousin Hadley who has been murdered. Hadley had become a vampire and the romantic partner of the queen, and upon her final death, left everything to Sookie. Sookie puts the trip on hold for a while, as she is trying to return to normal life away from supernaturals.
In Bon Temps, Andy and Portia Bellefleur are planning a double wedding to their respective finances. Sookie notes that the event seems oddly rushed. Sookie also begins a tentative relationship with John Quinn, the were-tiger she met at the Shreveport Pack Master competition. Quinn is eager to begin a relationship, though Sookie is cautious after Bill Compton's infidelity and Eric Northman's mixed signals.
While on a date, Sookie and Quinn are attacked in Shreveport by bitten teenage werewolves. Quinn threatens the members of the Shreveport pack, including Sookie's admirer Alcide Herveaux for their failure to protect a friend of the pack in their own domain. While Sookie recovers from the attack, the Vampire Queen's demon secretary, Mr. Cataliades, comes to hasten her to New Orleans. They discover that Gladiola, Mr. Cataliades' niece and Sophie-Anne's messenger, was murdered before she could give Sookie the message that Mr. Cataliades would be arriving. Sookie invites Bill to accompany her to New Orleans.
When she arrives, she finds Hadley's apartment locked under the spell of the talented and helpful young witch and Hadley's landlady, Amelia Broadway. When Amelia's stasis spell on the apartment is removed, she and Sookie are attacked by a newly turned vampire that had been hidden in the hall closet. The vampire is subdued by supernatural police, and Sookie and Amelia are taken to the hospital. Eric and Bill come to visit Sookie, and at Eric's urging, Bill tells Sookie why he came to Bon Temps: Hadley had told the queen of Sookie's telepathic abilities, and sent Bill to Bon Temps to find Sookie and bring her into the Queen's services, seducing Sookie if necessary. Sookie is heartbroken and furious to learn that her first love was a sham, and tells Bill to leave her alone before leaving the hospital and walking home, still badly injured.
She awakes to find Claudine, her fairy godmother, and Amelia by her side. Claudine is trying to earn enough karma points to ascend to angel status, and has made Sookie her pet project.
Sookie is called before Queen Sophie-Anne that night.
Sookie finds the vampire queen still grieving for Hadley, and emotional due to her recent political wedding to Peter Threadgill, the vampire king of Arkansas. The wedding is only a political gesture, but is very important for maintaining peace between the kingdoms. Sophie-Anne reveals that Hadley was furious over the wedding, and stole a diamond bracelet from Sophie-Anne that was a present from the king. If Sophie-Anne doesn't have the bracelet back for a party in several days, Threadgill could call for divorce, and take down her kingdom.
Sookie promises to look for the jewels, and asks the queen for help solving the mystery of the new vampire who attacked her and Amelia in Hadley's apartment. They know that the vampire was a shapeshifter named Jake Purifoy who was to escort Hadley to the party, but do not know how he became a vampire or was hidden in the closet. Amelia offers to cast a special spell with her coven to show a replay of the events before both Hadley and Purifoy's deaths. Sophie-Anne is intrigued, and decides to watch the spell being cast, accompanied by her personal bodyguard Andre.
The spell is a success, and the collection of vampires and witches witness Purifoy being killed, but they are unable to see his assailant. Hadley didn't witness the murder, but she saves Purifoy by turning him into a vampire and putting him in her hall closet. Hadley herself is killed the next day by one of the Queen's assistants, a crime which has already been dealt with.
While Sookie cleans Hadley's apartment, Quinn arrives. He's also investigating Purifoy's attack, as the young Were was an employee of his event-planning business. They bond and their relationship matures, but they are attacked yet again, and kinapped by some weres.
Quinn manages to call the queen, asking her to send help. Sookie and Quinn are beaten up badly, but Sookie manages to undo their restraints and they escape into a swamp. Quinn changes to his tiger form, and the two backtrack through the swamp to follow the van to an isolated cabin. Peeking inside, Sookie discovers that the Pelt family, the parents and sister of Alcide's ex-girlfriend, Debbie Pelt, are behind both attacks on her and Quinn. Debbie had attacked Sookie with a gun, forcing Sookie to kill her with Jason's shotgun in self-defense (in Dead to the World). The Pelts have been unrelenting in trying to find the truth of their daughter's disappearance, and Sookie tells them the truth. The Pelts stoically accept the outcome, swearing not to tell anyone if Sookie will keep the secret of their violence against her, which is against pack law.
Before she can leave New Orleans for good, Sookie must attend the ball being thrown in honor of the newly married King and Queen. She attends with Quinn, and is surprised and dismayed at the amount of security from both Louisiana and Arkansas, noting that the two royal parties obviously have a shaky alliance. Sookie has found the Queen's missing bracelet, and slips it onto Sophie-Anne's wrist without anyone noticing.
Furious when he sees the missing bracelet publicly displayed, Threadgill starts his uprising without provocation, with Arkansas vampires squaring off against Louisiana loyalists, and many bystanders caught in the middle. During the fight, Bill saves Sookie's life. Sookie rushes to find an exit and winds up in the queen's private quarters, as Andre and Threadgill square off over the wounded queen. Andre kills Threadgill to save Sophie-Anne, and Sookie escapes during the melee.
She arrives back at the apartment with a wounded Quinn, and is soon interrupted by a knock on the door. Bill is standing in the doorway, completely healed from the fight though his clothing bears the evidence, desperate to talk to her. Bill confesses that though he was sent by the queen to seek out Sookie initially, he truly fell in love with her, and still loves her. Sookie turns him away, telling him to get out of her life and never come back.
As she prepares to leave New Orleans for Bon Temps, Amelia asks to come along as she has broken coven rules by accidentally turning her lover, fellow witch Bob, into a housecat. Grateful for the company, and upset by the heartbreak and violence, Sookie accepts and heads home.