Pros: Interesting world, main character, and plot; fun
Cons: Side plot/character could use more detail
Rating: 4 out of 5
In Anton Strout’s Deader Still, Simon Canderous is an ex-thief who works for Manhattan’s Department of Extraordinary Affairs. His gift of psychometry allows him to pick up memories and impressions from objects, and leads him in this case to believe that a vampire killed a bunch of lawyers who’d been out for a cruise on the Hudson River. Unfortunately for him, the real truth is much more complicated—and potentially deadly.
Of course, where would Simon be if there weren’t a bunch of extra problems fouling up his life? His girlfriend’s dipping into dangerous magics. Her boss seems much too interested in her, and in getting rid of Simon. Simon has a test to pass—not to mention survive. And an old friend of Simon’s is blackmailing him into helping her with one last heist.
Could things get any worse?
Deader Still is the sequel to Dead to Me, which, in true “I never know what these publishers will send me next” style, I haven’t read. There’s enough direct follow-on from Dead to Me that I think I would have enjoyed Deader Still much more if I’d read the previous book first, and I don’t necessarily recommend starting with Deader Still.
Simon Canderous is an interesting character, both reluctant good guy and emotionally-stunted ordinary Joe. His psychometric abilities are the one thing setting him apart, and he’d just as soon be rid of them. I enjoy the way his abilities are handled, especially the detail that using them leaves him with low blood sugar, and so he stuffs his pockets with Life Savers.
Some of the side characters definitely held my interest (Simon’s partner, his mentor, and an archivist named Godfrey). Others, however, seemed a tad shallow (Simon’s girlfriend and her boss, in particular), although I suspect having read the other book first might have eased that. In particular, Jane’s affinity for Technomancy seems relatively random and doesn’t go much of anywhere.
The climactic battle scene is clever, well-paced, and attention-grabbing, and I definitely enjoyed it. Again, however, I feel that the lack of having read the previous book left the bad guy seeming rather… random.
These days, because so many genre books are parts of series, most authors carefully write them to stand alone. This is a pretty good idea, because it means that if you happen to pick up a random book in the series and you enjoy it, you might go back to the beginning and get sucked into the whole thing. If the books don’t stand alone, it’s harder to pick up new fans after later books come out.
Because of this, I rarely have difficulty reviewing books from the middle of a series I haven’t read before. Deader Still has proven one of the rare occasions when I definitely felt that I was potentially missing whole angles and levels of characters because of having missed out on the previous book. So if you find the series appealing, I highly recommend starting with the beginning.