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Dead Still, by Anton Strout
Genre: Modern/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Published: 2009
Review Posted: 6/10/2013
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

Dead Still, by Anton Strout

Book Review by Joshua Palmatier

Have you read this book?

I read the first book, Dead To Me, a while ago and felt it had some "first book" issues, in that it was Anton's debut novel. It didn't feel as cleanly plotted as I would have liked, with some plot elements appearing out of nowhere toward the end, and some looseness with the events and plot in general. The main character was generally sound, with a cool power--psychometry, the ability to discern past events by touching an object--but I never felt that the power was being used as effectively as possible in that book.

I'm happy to say that in the second novel, many of these issues with the first book have improved greatly. The plot, that begins with the Department of Extraordinary Affairs discovering a boat full of dead lawyers that appear to have been drained of blood, is much cleaner and less loose. It takes twists and turns that don't come out of the blue, and it's much easier to see where and why the characters are getting their ideas and motivations. The subplot regarding an ex girlfriend of Simon's, come to ask him to revert back to his criminal behavior, ties in nicely with his problems dealing with a long-term relationship (which he's never had due to his power) and the main plot as well. So a tremendous leap forward regarding the plotting. Simon's power was used much more effectively as well.

The characters are also more grounded here and easier to follow. I still think that there are smoothing issues that need to be addressed regarding the emotions of the characters though. Some of the changes--from irritation to anger, etc--come too quick or come across as too extreme in some situations. And there were a few spots where I just wanted the characters to just TALK to each other, and thus resolve the problem with a few sentences, instead of saying nothing and remaining angry instead, to keep the tension high. BUT, that said, there was massive improvement in characterization in this book as well.
I still feel that some of the plotting needs a little work--it's rough around the edges--and obviously feel that the characters haven't completely settled yet . . . but all of that is easy to leave by the wayside while reading. Because the Simon Canderous novels aren't supposed to be deadly serious urban fantasies. They're supposed to be fun, and if you go into the books with the idea that you're going to get a wild ride, then you'll have fun. The plot doesn't have to be perfect for the reader to enjoy it. (Whatever happened with the Rough Guide to Supernatural New York City anyway? Simon searches it out, finally gets it, and then it vanishes from the book.) The plot can take bizarre twists, as this one does at the end, but that's part of the fun. (Bryant Park? Really? Although cool fact about the park.) The Simon Canderous novels aren't supposed to be horribly dark reads. They're humorous and crazy and slightly whacked.

So, if you're looking for a little light reading (meaning fun) in the urban fantasy genre, something with zombies, animated bronze crabs, and some cool and interesting ties to objects and places around New York City, then I'd recommend the Simon Canderous novels. I've already stared the third novel, Dead Matter, so expect a review of that one soon.
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