Necromancer Eric Carter returns to L.A. to avenge his sister’s vicious murder but runs afoul of powerful gangsters—alive and dead—who plan to finish him off for good.
Carter is a talented mage like his deceased (i.e., murdered) parents, but Carter’s specialty is dead things. Conjuring them. Controlling them. Chatting with them. It involves a lot of blood, usually his own. Another not-perk is that Carter sees ghosts everywhere—Haunts, Echoes, you name it—and they see him. Carter uses his unenviable talents to eliminate magic power-abusing bad guys. After a friendly warning from some Haitian death loas to be careful whom he trusts, followed by a call from his old friend Alex, Carter knows something nefarious is up. He’s right: His sister Lucy is dead.
Carter’s quest for revenge is complicated by personal issues (his ex-girlfriend is now Alex’s fiancé); business issues (both the ghost of the mobster who murdered his parents and the baddie’s living successor are out to kill him); and weird supernatural issues (La Muerte, the death goddess, wants to own Carter and make him her enforcer). Plus, the food at his old favorite hangout has gone to hell. Things are stacked against him, and Carter needs to find out who is setting him up before he becomes one of the dead himself.
This dark urban fantasy has a lot going for it. Blackmoore’s love for L.A. in all its splendor and squalor shines in his detailed snapshots of the City of Angels. Carter is a tough, bad-boy antihero with plenty of emotional baggage and a burning sense of justice. His voice is dryly humorous, self-deprecating, and…reveals a sensitive side buried somewhere in all that cynicism. Seedy motels, cheap bottles of booze, and thick-headed thugs give the whole novel a noir feel. It works. The action sequences are intense, including everything from magical combat to fisticuffs with the aforementioned thugs. A battle with a fire elemental at the Port of Los Angeles is a standout.
My biggest criticism is that there is arguably too much focus on action vs. story—I love the premise and the characters and wanted more of them, while I lost count of how many times poor Carter was knocked unconscious, threatened with a taser, or had his nose rebroken. That said, Dead Things is a fun, fresh take on a…different…branch of magic coupled with an agreeably world-weary hero. Fans of the Dresden Files, you’ll want to check this one out.