Sunday, September 11, 2016

Death Warmed Over: Kevin J. Anderson

From the description at Goodreads:
Ever since the Big Uneasy unleashed vampires, werewolves, and other undead denizens on the world, it's been hell being a detective—especially for zombie P.I. Dan Chambeaux. Taking on the creepiest of cases in the Unnatural Quarter with a human lawyer for a partner and a ghost for a girlfriend, Chambeaux redefines "dead on arrival." But just because he was murdered doesn't mean he'd leave his clients in the lurch. Besides, zombies are so good at lurching.  
Now he's back from the dead and back in business—with a caseload that's downright unnatural. A resurrected mummy is suing the museum that put him on display. Two witches, victims of a curse gone terribly wrong, seek restitution from a publisher for not using "spell check" on its magical tomes. And he's got to figure out a very personal question—Who killed him?
Praise from other authors:
"The Dan Shamble books are great fun. The dead detective is an ex-sleuth, but he has not ceased to be, or ceased to care. In a world full of monsters, an honorable man is still important, dead or alive or in between. Dan Shamble: dead fun and deadly serious."
— Simon R. Green 
“Down these mean streets a man must lurch. . . . With his Big Sleep interrupted, Chambeaux the zombie private eye goes back to sleuthing, in Death Warmed Over, Kevin J. Anderson’s wry and inventive take on the Noir paradigm.  The bad guys are werewolves, the clients are already deceased, and the readers are in for a funny, action-packed adventure, following that dead man walking. . . ”
— Sharyn McCrumb

Lest you get confused, I need to point out that the hero and narrator of this book (and series) is named Dan Chambeaux, but the books as a group are called the Dan Shamble series. Since this novel focuses on the humorous aspects of Dan's situation, it is inevitable that his name is  often bastardized by many of the characters. Dan even has a Best Human Friend, conveniently a cop working in the Unnatural Quarter, who spends a great deal of his time telling Dan insensitive zombie jokes.

In some ways this story is a hodgepodge of cases. That is not all bad, because sometimes when a mystery gets bogged down in one case that goes on and on, the story feels never-ending. But, the hero and zombie Dan Chambeaux has a primary goal of finding the person who killed him, which has a unifying effect. Thus there is an overarching story line with a lot of smaller cases going at the same time, which is fairly realistic for a private eye in the real world.

Death Warmed Over is a fun read, a chance to relax. In general, I don't like humor in mystery fiction, but maybe the humor in this novel made it more palatable to read about zombies, ghouls, and vampires as victims of crimes. This is a satire, not intended to be believable, but of course you do have to get into the world and accept it to have any involvement at all in the story.

Anderson is praised by many reviewers for his world building and I would agree. He has created a world where monsters and "normal" humans have to get along, and they have actually found a way that works, for the most part. The way that society has adapted and is continuing to adapt with new laws to handle the big change in society is interesting and handled very well.

I liked the social commentary in the story, and appreciated that it is delivered as an organic part of the story. The Unnaturals are hated by some people in society, and accepted by others. They have naturally drifted to their own area of the city, where they can find restaurants and other places of business that cater to their needs.

My only complaint would be that the writing is repetitive. This is a personal source of irritation for me; I get impatient with writers that keep reminding you of the main goal of the protagonist, etc. Some characters are introduced more than once with explanations of who they are, but in this case that may be good, because we have a huge number of characters and it is hard to keep track.

I was introduced to this series by my son, who purchased some novels in the series at the 2014 Planned Parenthood Book Sale. He has the four novels in the series, and I will continue reading the series. This book is my first submission for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI event. That event celebrates reading of books of mystery, suspense, dark fantasy, and horror.

Some other resources:

Dan "Shamble" Chambeaux at The Thrilling Detective Web Site

A great overview at RA for All: Horror

Positive review at Kirkus


Publisher:  Kensington, 2012.
Length:      309 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       Dan Shamble #1
Genre:       Urban Fantasy
Source:      Borrowed from my son.


Cath said...

I shall look into this series as I like the sound of it.

TracyK said...

It is worth a try, Cath. I was pleasantly surprised. I could not figure out how a zombie PI series would work.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, I like the kind of books you read though I can see why a zombie detective is not entirely out of your comfort zone. Good choice and review.

Anonymous said...

What I like about the sound of this, Tracy, is that it's innovative. I always respect an author who does things a little differently, and doesn't stick strictly to the 'straight and narrow,' if that makes sense. And I understand exactly what you mean about a narrative that dwells too much on one case. I'm glad you enjoyed this.

col2910 said...

Love the cover and I'm kind of tempted by the story outline, but won't go there. I did find half a book by this author in this week's tub - Paul of Dune - a cast off from my son. I doubt it will ever be read - not my cup of tea genre-wise and its the size of a housebrick!

TracyK said...

Thanks, Prashant. This one was easy to read because of the humor.

TracyK said...

It was interesting to see how the author handled the various unnatural beings in the context of a satire on both hard-boiled mystery and horror, Margot.

TracyK said...

I love the cover, too, Col. Until I read the book I did not notice all the creatures in the back. Kevin J. Anderson has written a shedload of books, some alone and some with other authors. Amazing.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I think i read a STAR TREK novel of his or some such? Decades ago though ...

TracyK said...

According to Fantastic Fiction he did one Star Trek in 2000, Sergio, with his wife and one other author. He did quite a few STAR WARS novels alone or with other authors. I have read a few of the Star Trek novels, probably back in the early 1990s. Both TNG and the original series.

Clothes In Books said...

This does sound good - but the Undead are not my thing and I am going to be strict about not pursuing new genres!

TracyK said...

I don't blame you at all, Moira, I keep looking at the books I buy on a whim and wondering why I keep adding to my piles. I go to the book sale today so I will be adding even more. What fun!