Story Summary: Eric Carter is a Necromancer. The job title’s not the best but if it walks like a dead duck, talks like a dead duck and smells like a dead duck, he’s the man to talk to about it. He’s been out of LA for a while, learning about his abilities and doing work for minor gods and powers, bouncing around from hotel to hotel, town to town and state to state, no “home” to go home to. He’d left everything behind-his sister, his home, his friends- when he’d killed the crime boss who’d murdered his parents. The gangster’s second in command, Ben Duncan, offered Carter an ultimatum: Get out and stay out, or Ben would kill first Carter’s sister, then Carter. Fifteen years have gone by and true to the agreement, Eric Carter has stayed the fuck out of LA.

Until his phone rings.

And won’t stop ringing. 

It’s Alex, an old friend from California, calling to let Carter know that his sister, Lucy, has been brutally murdered.

Carter returns to LA and to much bigger problems than just finding who killed his sister. On top of facing the guilt of abandoning Lucy and discovering Alex basically took over as if he were her family, Carter finds himself tangled up again with Ben Duncan, someone who is keeping tabs on his whereabouts, and the remnants of the man he killed 15 years ago, not to mention the patron saint of violent death herself dangling help in front of Carter, available for a very steep price.

Will Carter be able to avenge his sister’s violent murder and deal with a gangster who refuses to die before Duncan manages to kills him or he’s forced to accept Santa Muerte’s risky proposal? And even if he does, will he have anything or anyone left afterward?

Dead-Things-cover

Hot damn. Although I enjoyed Blackmoore’s first book, City of the Lost, Dead Things leaves it in the dust. The first was good, but this is even better. This book grabbed me from chapter one and held on through the end, calling to me from the nightstand every day I couldn’t find time to read.

Eric Carter is a strong character. He’s been dealt a pile of shit and is trudging through the same way we all do- making decisions as best we can and hoping we haven’t royally fucked up again. He operates in an area most practitioners don’t even want to deal with-Necromancy. Carter sees dead people. He talks to dead people. Dead people follow him home at night. And sometimes, he makes dead people get up and kill other people. Although he’s man of odd talent even amongst other mages, he’s very, very good at what he does.

But in the end, Carter is a tragic character. When he left LA he thought he was saving Lucy, but his return is met with accusations of abandonment and cowardice. His friend is dating his ex-girlfriend, his sister is dead, he doesn’t know who to trust, and even when he makes the right decision, somebody will be angry or worse, hurt or dead. Repeatedly Carter has to trick or betray those he loves to protect and save them and at the end of the book he has to make a decision that there’s only one right answer to but will lose him the last remaining friends he has. No matter what he does, Eric Carter can’t have a happy ending. He can do the right thing, he can walk away, but no matter what, he loses.

I absolutely love that in a story. There’s something about The Hard Decision and The Tragic Character that evokes the strongest emotions in me. It kept me glued to the book, page after page, and if I hadn’t been traveling with a toddler at the time, I probably would have finished it in one sitting. The character reminded me, in all the right ways, of Harry Dresden: the mounting troubles, the high price of “winning”, and the sadistic ways the writer found to abuse the character. Repeatedly.

Blackmoore also did a nice job with the supporting characters. I found myself upset that Alex might be in Duncan’s pocket, that Vivian couldn’t be with Carter, and I really wanted to see Duncan meet a horrible, painful end. I was on a plane when Darias, whom we’d met in City of the Lost, showed up and I honestly did an air guitar solo on a plane while flying somewhere over the pacific ocean.

The technical bits of magic in Blackmoore’s dark LA have been some of my favorites and it’s been the simplest stuff that I’ve really enjoyed. From the charms on the cars and the post it notes outside hotel rooms to the tattoos and “Hello, My Name Is” police badge spells, this bit of sorcery and necromancy definitely has a unique flavor to it and I want to see more. The magic seems practical and useful without being gratuitous and full of auctorial  wankery (see: Sword of Truth series…ugh).

I’ve also greatly enjoyed the world both novels happen in. Blackmoore’s taken a small measure of the beauty and large scoops of the grit that compose Southern California, added a pinch of demons, a handful of magic, a bottle of whiskey, thrown it all in a shaker and dimmed the lights on the results. What’s crawled out of the mix has been a noir LA that’s never been seen before, full of rich characters with mixed motivations and varying levels of humanity & magic. The next two Necromancy novels are going to be instant buys for me.

The cons: It’s a short list. Very. First, some details were needlessly repeated and it struck me as more of a mere annoyance than a problem with the book. For example, Santa Muerte watching Carter cross the desert and the crow tattoo were both mentioned twice in ways that seemed a little redundant the second time around. It felt as if both mentions were meant to be an introduction to that item/event, instead of the second being a call back to the original description or mention. Second, I hard a hard time buying entirely into Carter’s guilt at leaving LA after killing the gangster. It felt slightly overplayed but for me, didn’t detract from the story at all.

All told, however, I loved Dead Things. From the first fight to the last I was cheering for Carter, cringing every time he got his ass kicked, and at the end, feeling my heart break for him. I’ll be waiting with baited breath for the sequel to see what Blackmoore and Santa Muerte can throw at Carter next time.

In the mean time, don’t be left in the dust! Dead Things releases February 5th and is available for   pre-order over on Amazon. Also, Mysterious Galaxy Books will be hosting a couple of signing events featuring Blackmoore once the book is released. And lastly, keep an eye on Stephen Blackmoore’s website for more signing dates and other book news!

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