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Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath
Review by Drew Bittner
DAW Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756407742
Date: 05 February 2013 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Eric Carter sees the dead. Difference is, he can converse with them. He's turned his talent into a career, wandering the country and laying the restless dead. When he hears that his sister has been murdered, however, he must return to Los Angeles--the city he fled years before--and demand justice...if he has to interrogate every living-impaired spirit in the City of Angels to get it.

In Dead Things, Stephen Blackmoore expands upon the Los Angeles supernatural world he first conjured in City of the Lost. Carter, as a necromancer, has talents that are in demand; even so, he left a lot of business unfinished when he fled LA, and it seems increasingly likely that that business is at the root of his problems.

A few years ago, Carter ended up killing a powerful mage named Boudreau. The dead man had lots of friends and henchmen, which sent Carter running. Now, against all odds, it seems just possible that Boudreau's spirit has somehow survived. If not, someone is doing one hell of an impersonation, such that Carter is in mortal danger practically from his first moment back home. Even with help from friends like Alex, a former grifter who now runs a fashionable club, and Vivian, his former love who's now a doctor, it's going to be an uphill battle, because the dead fight dirty.

And also in the mix is the Mexican goddess Santa Muerte, who hopes to recruit Carter as her consort and agent. She offers him some advice, a few cryptic words that put him on the path, but he knows better than to trust that kind of help or believe it's for free. Everything has a price, especially in the supernatural world.

Reliving the moment of his sister's death (and the macabre message left for him alone), Carter goes on a single-minded rampage, stirring up the ghosts of crimes long buried and but not forgotten. He gets handed a fair number of beatings, especially from the crime boss who replaced Boudreau, but keeps working his way toward the heart of the matter--even when a fire elemental is thrown at him or a desperate escape lands him in the middle of a pack of hungry ghosts. Carter can't afford to give up, though; he ran away once and it cost his sister her life. He's done with running. And now somebody is going to pay.

Blackmoore writes a terrific blend of noir mystery and street level magic, with the same grit as a Charlie Huston and the dark imagination of a Chuck Wendig. Carter lives and works in a world much like that of Constantine as well, though he lacks some of John Constantine's world-weary snark and is oddly more optimistic about life in general. Watching him work through the different possibilities is an exercise in persistence over brilliant insight, which is what much detective work is about.

Alex and Vivian are solid, reliable friends whom Eric has brutally mistreated--and continues to mistreat, for different reasons. Bereft and adrift, he needs their help but openly questions how much he can trust them, which creates a fraught dynamic among them. Things have changed since he's been away and finding out just how much is a painful process for the young necromancer.

In the end, though, it comes down to Carter literally facing the ghosts of his past and figuring out how to triumph. As with many such stories, nothing comes without a price--and Carter has to decide if some prices are too steep to pay.

Blackmoore is going places in urban fantasy, and readers fond of dark tales should keep their eyes on him.

Highly recommended.

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