Dead To Me by Anton Strout – Book Review

Dead To Me
Published by: Ace
ISBN: 978-0441015788

Dead To Me  by Anton Strout

Dead To Me
by Anton Strout

Simon Canderous is a man whose life has been profoundly affected by his talent – the power of psychometry. With a touch, Simon is plunged into a past in which the person or object was a part. It’s a useful trick, assuming it only happens when you want it to and you can shut if off when you don’t like what you see.

However, this is not how it works for Simon. It seems to happen more often than not whether he wants it to or not, and this has saddled Simon with some serious personal baggage. He’s a lonely guy, tormented not by his own past but other peoples. It’s one thing to have “the talk” with your new squeeze about past sexual partners, it’s entirely another to be mentally force-fed the living memory of the best sex she ever had because you inadvertently touched some random personal belonging of hers. You remember when your mom told you not to touch something because “you don’t know where it’s been”? A lot of the time you wouldn’t want to know, but poor Simon can’t help it.

Once a petty criminal who used his abilities to steal from antique dealers and estate sales, one too many close calls put Simon on the path to the strait and narrow (i.e. seeking legitimate employment). After answering a bizarre help-wanted add he found himself putting his talents to good use in New York’s DEA (Department of Extraordinary Affairs) – a paranormal law enforcement agency that officially does not exist.

Simon is part of a unique subculture of people who see and deal with the wonders (and more often the horrors) of an extraordinary world, hidden from humanity predominately by the absolute – albeit unconscious – refusal of the average human mind to see it. As part of “Other Division” Simon is learning the ins and outs of dealing with rogue spirits, vampire infestations, periodic zombie outbreaks, weird cults, and people with talents like his own that are not always put to good use.

He is new, inexperienced, and on the wrong side of a very scary man named Wesker (who’s the head of not one but two divisions in the DEA) – but Simon has a good partner showing him the ropes, and Wesker isn’t the head of his division. If it wasn’t for all that back rent he owes and his wasteland of a love life, he’d hardly have anything to complain about. Well at least except for the unending attempts by the forces of darkness to destroy humanity.

But then again, if they quit doing that he’d be unemployed.

Anton Strout starts off his Simon Canderous series (He’s working on number three, and he’s contracted for four) with a wiz bang. New York is a great setting for paranormal weirdness, as it is mind numbingly big and has a government so labyrinthine there could actually be a secret paranormal police force that nobody knew about. Plus as everyone knows, New York is a real world epicenter of normal weirdness.

The characters are believable and you want to know more about them, even if some of them have a little “stock” quality to them. As far as I’m concerned, there are plenty of unique traits to each that they are their own distinct and largely original creations, even if they are a bit archetypal; fatherly boss, older, wiser and more cynical partner, sexy love interest, jerk co-worker. Hell, real people fall into categories like that too; I’ve met them all more than once so you can’t give a writer too much grief about a thing like that.

Strout weaves a vivid narrative with smooth dialogue and a fast-paced story. I just couldn’t wait to find out more about the characters and see what happened next. It’s a busy plot, with a few major issues that get at least partially resolved and a lot of minor ones that are left at loose ends. Some of those, I have a sneaking suspicion, will come up again later in the series. When I see those seemingly unimportant plot details I always like to recall how that magic ring Bilbo Baggins found wasn’t really that big a deal in the first book.

All in all, this book is a winner. I hated to put it down and couldn’t wait to pick it back up again, and was left with that agitated feeling that always comes when you finish a good book; you want more and there just isn’t any

Oh, but there is more – book two is already out, number three is in the works, and there’s supposed to be at least four. Unless Strout tanks out and jumps the shark early, I can’t imagine there won’t be more. I can’t wait to get my hands on them. These puppies are going up on the shelf right next to my Jim Butcher collection.

By Matt Walker
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