Ace (303 pp, $7.99, March 2009)
Reviewed by E.E. Knight
Good news for fans of urban fantasy detective stories: Anton Strout hits one well into the bleachers with his sophomore publishing effort. Deader Still is the worthy follow on to last year’s Dead To Me. Strout is writing a first-person paranormal gumshoe saga about investigator Simon Canderous, a baseball bat-swinging sleuth. Simon works for the city government’s Department of Extraordinary Affairs, an underfunded law enforcement organization. Think Bill Murray’s college-basement departmental digs in Ghostbusters without the glamour. And the rest of officialdom feels much the same way about the Department as Murray’s outraged Dean. They’re on a shoestring budget for everything but paperwork.
Simon is a mix of beefy, quirky, and a little intense that makes me think of a young Jon Voight. He makes a nice pivot for the other characters in the series. There is more to Simon than his trusty baseball bat. He is a user of psychometry, able to get a read off an object and some idea of what was on the mind of the last person to handle it. This is fun for readers and impresses me as an author. One of the big problems with writing first person (or third person limited to a single character) is getting glimpses of other characters’ inner lives. Simon’s reading of objects nicely bridges the gap between points of view and the author in me finds the device brilliant. Ordinary readers will simply find it fun and interesting. I thought some of the best parts of the first book were Simon’s readings of objects, and that trend holds true for the sequel.