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Cat's Claw by Amber Benson
Cover Artist: Spiral Studio
Review by Paul Haggerty
Ace Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441018437
Date: 23 February 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In the course of her previous adventure to free her father and get out from under the demands of being Death ... literally, Calliope Reaper-Jones ended up owing a debt to Cerberus, the three headed hell-hound at the gates of Hell. Now she needs to find some way to pay off the debt, but immortal three-headed hell hounds know how to drive a tough bargain. If she can't complete a simple task of finding a lost soul within 24 hours, she'll have to take over Cerberus' job ... forever. But she's Death's daughter, so just how hard can that be?

More by Amber Benson:
Death's Daughter
Cat's Claw

Benson's character of Calliope Reaper-Jones, or Callie as she prefers, is a fairly normal example of a modern young adult. She knows what she wants, and she's prepared to work hard to get it. Of course what she wants isn't necessarily reasonable, and the world isn't about to roll over and give it to her ... or even just play fair. She could draw on the family resources, but her pride gets in the way there. Even though her memory of her family's situation has been restored, she still wants as little to do with Death, Inc. as possible. And if that means having to buy designer knock-offs instead of the real thing, then so be it.

But the biggest problem with being an immortal child of one of the incarnations of the Universal powers is that the rest of the world won't respect your privacy. First she's visited by a renown aura specialist who tells her that her family has decided that Callie must learn to control her magical abilities, no if, ands, or buts. Then Cerberus wants her to find the shade of Senenmut, and ancient Egyptian architect, who seems to have slipped through the cracks in Death's paperwork and vanished from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. It seems simple enough which, of course, should have been a major warning klaxon. So should the additional stipulation that if she didn't return with him within twenty-four hours, she would have to take over Cerberus job. But Callie is sure she can easily carry out the task, and she's desperate to discharge the debt.

Thus begins a twisted tale of double cross and triple cross, where Callie moves through the underworld, dealing with a variety of highly dangerous mythological beings, none of whom have Callie's best interests at heart. But considering that all these powers-that-be have been scheming away for thousands of years, Callie is going to have to be brilliant or lucky to pull this off and get back to work on Monday. Fortunately, she's supernaturally lucky.

The entire story is told from inside Callie's head, with frequent asides and back-stories told by her to explain why she's about to do the thing that we all know (including her) that she shouldn't be doing. The perspective is of someone that ... while you may not want to be like her ... never-the-less is perfectly comprehensible. Callie has her strengths, such as loyalty and dedication to those she loves, and she has her weaknesses, such as trusting people she has no reason to trust, and sometimes thinking her own comfort is more important than watching out for what's going on around her. All in all, she's a likeable person and one can't help identifying with her and wishing her the best. Of course she's an eternally young, immortal woman, with the entire apparatus of the afterlife on her side. So perhaps, our perspectives are just a little different after all. Still, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series and seeing what mischief she can manage to get herself into and, hopefully, out of.

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