What is there to say about Anton Strout’s Dead to Me? Good things, I mean, since that is my quest these days…to begin my reviews with the positive rather than the negative. This isn’t proving to be easy and if I was a more paranoid person I’d wonder if Mr. Strout didn’t just write Dead to Me for the sole purpose of trying my (admittedly rather short) patience.
Well, I love the fact that Strout chooses to give his character the power of psychometry. Oh, urban fantasy has all manner of necromancers, mind-readers, clairvoyants, and goodness only knows what else, but I can’t recall ever seeing psychometry before. Certainly not by that name. The idea is pretty interesting and the fact that using it causes the main character, Simon Canderous, to suffer low blood sugar, is pretty amusing. Aside from that, Anton Strout’s writing is mostly solid, structurally speaking. In fact, I kind of feel bad about this, because the poor guy really does seem to be trying so hard.
Perhaps that was part of the problem. Perhaps he’s trying too hard. I’m going to give you a random list of names. They’re people, places, and things from the book and well… see for yourself:
• David Davidson
• The Fraternal Order of Goodness
• Tome, Sweet Tome (a book shop)
• The Department of Plausible Deniability
• Faisal Bane
• Things That Go Bump in the Night Division
• Clairvoyance or Clair-annoyance: You Either Got It or You Don’t (an employee pamphlet)
• Sectarian Defense League
• Deadside Manner: Staying Cool in Trouble Times
I could go on, but I think you get the point. If you find these things amusing, then by all means, go ahead and read… the book is packed with them. As for me… between the silly, hokey names and the main character’s bumbling idiot bit, I wasn’t sure whether Anton Strout wanted his hero to be Harry Potter or Harry Dresden. Because Simon is a bumbling idiot, always making absurd mistakes and clumsily crashing his way through everything. And the mood swings! The sudden snipping, sniping, snapping, and any number of abrupt bad behaviors is astonishing. I’d say it was the low blood sugar, except that every character has these mood swings to some extent and most of them have at least a minor case of the stupids. Like the bad guy who, when he’s by all appearances trapped, announces to the good guys that he in fact has an escape route.
The hokey aspects just keep piling on, too. Like, for example, the female character who is working for the “forces of Darkness” (Strout’s words, not mine) and doing evil things because the health benefits are good. She’s a total idiot who brings her diary with her when she goes to spy on the hero, then sits around writing in it in a manner that most girls grow out of by the time they’re fourteen. Is anyone surprised when this bubble-head gets herself caught? No, not really.
Add in a Dumbledore-like character who explains everything yet explains nothing in an extremely mysterious and cryptic manner to our hero, and a Snape-like character who is an agent of good working as a spy for the agents of evil, and I’m just really fed up. Plus, once the mystery is solved, the book continues to drag on. It wasn’t that interesting of a plot to begin with and it doesn’t really age well, if you know what I mean. So I gave up. I give Mr. Strout props for trying and all, but in the end it’s just so very much not for me.
Simon Canderous — (2008-2015) Publisher: Welcome to the Department of Extraordinary Affairs Other Division: New York’s answer to the underfunded world of paranormal investigation. It’s a job caught up in red tape, memos, and office politics, but its becoming par for the course for recent recruit Simon Canderous. After a life of petty crime and twenty four years of watching his power of psychometry — the ability to divine information solely by touching an object — destroy any chance of a real relationship, he’s joined the forces of Good hoping to gain some control. But when the mysterious ghost of a recently dead woman shows up at the Lovecraft Cafe, he and his mentor must figure out how she fits into a nefarious plot involving the cultists rights movement, a large wooden fish, and the forces of Darkness crushing on him.