I see dead people. Well, I don’t, not really, although I do regularly encounter the dying. But I was curious to see how a urban fantasy would handle the idea of death when I saw this book about a necromancer, and what kind of operating system an author might conceive of for the spiritual world. This particular world still seems like it could use a little fleshing out (groan), but it passed the litmus test of entertaining, a palate cleanser between substantial reads. It’s a streamlined noir mystery where the investigator, Eric Carter, is a necromancer–oh, and technically, an assassin, as he kills things or people for hire.
The opening chapter is a zinger, a fast episode that must have been perfect to workshop. Carter has been chasing an undead man-spirit around the southern U.S., trying to stop an ongoing killing spree. Finally corners the spirit in a bar, resulting in a dramatic confrontation. It’s a great lead in to the book, priming the reader for understanding the powers Carter wields, and whetting the appetite through the following expositionary chapters. When an old friend calls Carter to tell him his younger sister has been murdered, Carter’s pulled back to L.A., a town full of questions and contacts he left decades ago.
Strip away the ghosts and you have a basic noir revenge plot, with complications from the ‘never darken my town again’ trope. There’s a red herring or two regarding possible double crosses. But that’s not necessarily bad, just a note for genre readers. The necromancy adds an interesting angle, allowing Carter access to a certain group of informants and certain problem-solving skills, but it’s involved enough and a consistent enough inclusion to satisfy those looking for UF elements.
It was entertaining, but I can see where there are issues. It does feel Dresden-ish in many ways (power levels, male-centric with lingering ex-issues, somewhat lacking in actual investigative skills), although far more entertaining than the earliest couple of Dresden books. Although Carter talks as is if he is comfortable killing, its worth noting that he doesn’t usually do it unless he has to. World-building feels like it has a little ways to go; though Carter works with the dead and their spirits, I’m still not entirely clear on the theology. Haunts are locked in place, some spirits are Wanders; all eventually lose their memories, whether it’s a few days or a thousand years. The ending was a tad annoying, particularly with evidence of Carter’s stupidity and the ‘I’m going to stay to protect __’ resolution. Despite that, it was entertaining enough for me that I’ll check out the next to see where Blackmoore takes it.