Review: Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore

dead things by stephen blackmooreFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Eric Carter #1
Length: 295 pages
Publisher: DAW
Date Released: February 5, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it’s a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He’s turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left L.A. fifteen years ago he thought he’d never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister’s been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it’s the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who’s taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter’s going to find out who did it and he’s going to make them pay.

As long as they don’t kill him first.

My Review:

If Harry Dresden were a necromancer instead of a wizard, he probably would have turned out to be someone like Eric Carter. Same breed of snark (slightly more gallows, of course) but different city. Where Dresden is the wizard of Chicago, at least in the beginning; Los Angeles is Eric Carter’s city.

And his power comes from death.

It’s not that he is dead or even that he intentionally causes death, but that he speaks to the dead, and very definitely vice-versa.

And of course, he unintentionally causes a lot of death. Not just because he’s a mercenary necromancer for hire, but also because there are entirely too many things that know the best way to get his attention is to cause a spectacular death.

Eric left LA 15 years ago in a cloud of destruction. He killed a big-time gangster and magic user, and was told to leave town or see his friends and remaining family on “the other side”. Since Eric can actually see things on that other side, it was a damn good threat. He went.

He stayed gone until an old friend finally tracked him down to tell him that his sister had been killed; spectacularly and with extreme malice. It suddenly looked like his old deal was dead along with his sister.

Returning to LA, he discovers that his former BFF and his former girlfriend are together, and that everyone except him has become a respectable citizen, more or less. And that his sister was killed in such a spectacular fashion to particularly leave him a message on that “other side”.

Eric investigates what went wrong. It’s what he does, especially when it looks like there’s a particularly nasty haunt or ghost or necromancer playing with bad things and dead things.

But making a deal with a death goddess in order to figure out who is trying to make everyone he knows dead turns out to be a really bad deal. And that big-time gangster he thought he killed, well, in Eric’s world, dead isn’t always dead.

Eric needs to make really sure this time, or he’s going to be the one on “the other side”. Permanently.

Escape Rating A-: I compared Eric to Harry at the beginning of this review, and I think it’s a good comparison. Also good company for Eric to be in; I really love the Dresden Files.

Unfortunately for Eric, his love life is every bit as screwed up as Harry’s. We have another poster boy for urban fantasy, and it’s lack of a happy ending for the protagonist. Which feels right for Eric. He doesn’t start out as a happy camper, and he’s not supposed to become one. As a powerful magic user, he’s a misfit. As one of the few practicing necromancers in the world, he’s a misfit among misfits.

No one likes to think about the inevitability of death.

Underneath the magical trappings, Eric is conducting an investigation, both into his sister’s death and into the original mess that got him evicted from LA. He’s also being confronted with the mess he left behind and the people who did their best to clean it up and recover from his sudden disappearance.

It’s not a pretty picture and Eric is forced to come to terms with a whole lot of crap he’s been running from for 15 years. He’s trying to make up for all his mistakes, and it blinds him to the crap that is going on in the here and now.

I want to say that Eric is likable, but that’s not strictly true. He made a mess, and ran from it, and he’s now cleaning it up. Some of his methods of clean up are morally ambiguous, but completely consistent with Eric’s world as it is.

Eric is certainly compellingly watchable.

There’s an irony to the idea that Eric cleans up other people’s messes for a living,but has spent his entire adult life running from his own. His guilt makes it very easy for people (and other things) to play him. And they do.

broken souls by stephen blackmooreThe ending of Dead Things is a humdinger of a reveal and kind of a cliffhanger. I was left gasping a bit at the end, as I dived for the next book in the series, Broken Souls, today’s review book at The Book Pushers.

One of the things I love about urban fantasy is it’s ability to create beautifully packaged nasty surprises. Dead Things delivers!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

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