This paranormal fantasy novel tells the tale of Sookie Stackhouse, a Louisiana barmaid with a disability--- she can read minds. This unusual ability causes most locals to think she is crazy and shun her. But then Bill walks into her bar, and he's a little unusual himself--- he's a vampire. Sookie finds that she can't read vampire minds--- a restful experience--- and soon Sookie and Bill are dating. Bill even finds the time to meet Sookie's grandmother, and to speak on his Civil War experiences to her group.
But dating a vampire is not all sunshine and lollipops. Many people are biased against the newly-revealed vampires. And then there are the murders, which start with the violent death of one of Sookie's co-workers. Her brother Jason is suspected. Then Sookie's grandmother becomes a victim as well, and Sookie worries that she was the intended victim.
Bill the vampire takes Sookie to Fangtasia, a vampire bar in Shreveport, where she meets other vampires, Eric and Pam. Sookie's telepathic ability prevents them from being caught in a police raid, but the result is that Eric, a higher-ranking vampire than Bill, learns that Sookie is a telepath.
As the crisis over the murders increase, vigilantes burn down a house in which vampires have been living, and Sookie is horrified to realize that Bill may have been among the vampires killed. She spends an agonized day waiting, and is relieved to find Bill alive, or at least still undead, at nightfall.
After Bill and Sookie settle back into their routine, Bill tells her that the vampire Eric insists that she come to Shreveport to use her telepathic abilities to uncover an embezzler. Sookie doesn't want to go but has no choice. The embezzler turns out to be another vampire and is killed when he attacks Sookie.
The murder mystery is finally resolved, the killer turns out to be Rene, the boyfriend of Sookie's friend Arlene. Bill and Sookie are then able to resume their normal--- or not-so-normal--- lives.