Dead to Me is set in New York - but New York with a twist, there are ghosts, creatures and people with magical powers of various sorts. Their activities are policed by the Department of Extraordinary Affairs.
The hero of the book, Simon Canderous, works for the Department as part of the Other Division, which picks up all sorts of cases that don't fall to Divisions more specific roles like Haunts General or Greater and Lesser Arcana. Simon's special skill is psychometry, which allows him to see into the past of an object by touching it - useful in work, but a bit of a nightmare for his personal life.
Simon is firmly on the side of the angels but does have a rather shady past, which adds an interesting dimension to his character. The book is written from his first person perspective and he has an amusing and interesting voice.
The book follows Simon on his first really big case, which starts when he finds a ghost in the coffee shop that acts as a front for the Department. It becomes clear that something serious is up in New York, with Cultists with a taste for human sacrifice and a very nasty drug empire moving into the acceptable mainstream. Simon has to find out who his lovely ghost Irene was before her death and why she's so real.
Simon is a good lead character and I enjoyed following his journey. The other characters in the book are interesting, but at the end I felt that I didn't really know any of them very well or what their real motivations were. Even Connor, Simon's mentor, has moments were he gets pretty irritable with his charge and you're not quite sure where he's coming from. Jane, super-efficient PA to cultists, remains something of an enigma - it's not clear what does she really think and feel about Simon and her former employers - and I have to say that her diary entry which Simon reads was unconvincing to a teeth setting on edge degree. I did think the idea of selling your soul to cultists to get away from the horror of temping was amusing.
With this book I thought that it was largely deliberate that you are left with a sense of ambiguity about the other characters rather than it just being a side-effect of the first person narrative.
The author's written style is flowing and the action sequences were inventive and well written. I loved the concept of the Black Stacks and their very, very aggressive bookcases.
There are parts of the book where I thought the author was trying a bit too hard to be funny or to make things extraordinary. The references to training courses or leaflets with ridiculous titles like 'Witty Banter to Ease any Paranormal Situation' or 'Dealing with the Dearly Departed' started off amusing, but the joke was stretched a bit too thin by the end.
I'd recommend the book - nothing wow, but entertaining enough.
It took me two attempts to get into this book; the first time I started reading it I just couldn't work up the necessary interest in it to continue. However, at the second attempt, for some reason, I had no trouble and read it right through to the end in one sitting. I ended up glad I had persevered with it.
This is light urban fantasy; we don't get terribly deep character development, or great complexity, and the Department of Extraordinary Affairs (DEA) where the protagonist (Simon Canderous) works is played for laughs. It's a caricature of the red-tape-bound government agency; the humour coming from the juxtaposition of the almost uber-normal and the weird. Simon has to contend with lots of form-filling in triplicate and the kind of training-courses that we all have to suffer through, but he's also expected to put his life on the line fighting against homicidal ghosts and human-sacrificing cultists.
Simon's a guy who has a paranormal ability that has been useful in a life of petty crime and disastrous to his love-life, and now he's decided to go straight, he's relieved to find a job where it's actually an asset and he might learn to control it. In this book, he's still very much a newbie, and one who's been rather chucked in the deep end at that. Unlike many urban fantasy protagonists, he's not amazingly powerful - his ability is to read the history of objects when he touches them; excellent for giving you an unwanted look at whoever your girlfriend was with last, but not great in the self-defence stakes. His position is that he's very much a low-level operative having to deal with stuff he's neither trained nor equipped for. It gives an interesting new spin to the urban fantasy novel where we have rather too many kick-ass heroines with near-super-powers, and arrogance to match. Simon's out of his depth and he knows it.
Since the DEA is played for laughs, it isn't entirely believable - it's just a little too exaggerated - so this book is what you might reach for if you don't really want to think too hard, or be put through the emotional wringer too much. But it's still a book worth reaching for, and, having reached for it and read it, I shall now proceed to read the next in the series.
I brought this book on a wim and thought I would try something different and it is fab I cant put it down and read it really quicky. It reminds me of cross between dresden files like somebody else has stated cross with a little men in black and Buffy. A fab read funny in parts and I love the way the author has written the book as Simon the main caracter says I saw this or I feel this....so you can really see though his eyes....
I would recommend this book to anybody I even recommened it to my mum yesterday.
The first half of this book is awesome: funny, quirky, interesting. But the second half... It feels like it's written by someone else. The author suddenly uses phrases like "I threw up in my mouth a little" or "we exchanged a WTF look." I mean, huh. I really liked Simon, Connor, the Inspectre and Irene, even Wesker was funny with his acerbic sense of humor. But Jane... If there's a poster girl for a stereotypical blondie, it's her: gorgeous and cute but with empty space where her brain should be. It literally echoes in her head. And once she's introduced, the book goes downhill from there, turning the story from funny to silly to absurd. Too bad, the book had a great potential...