My Dead Body: A brilliant finish to a brilliant series

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Charlie Huston Joe Pitt Casebooks 5. My Dead BodyMy Dead Body by Charlie Huston

PLOT SUMMARY: Nobody lives forever. Not even a Vampyre. Just ask Joe Pitt. After exposing the secret source of blood for half of Manhattan’s Vampyres, he’s definitely a dead man walking. He’s been a punching bag and a bullet magnet for every Vampyre Clan in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, not to mention a private eye, an enforcer, an exile, and a vigilante. But now he’s just a target with legs.

For a year he’s sloshed around the subway tunnels and sewers, tapping the veins of the lost, while above ground a Vampyre civil war threatens to drag the Clans into the sunlight once and for all. What’s it gonna take to dig him up? How about the search for a missing girl who’s carrying a baby that just might be the destiny of Vampyre-kind. Not that Joe cares all that much about destiny and such. What he cares about is that his ex-girl Evie wants him to take the gig. What’s the risk? Another turn-playing pigeon in a shooting gallery. What’s the reward? Maybe one shot of his own. What’s he aiming for? Nothing much. Just all the evil at the heart of his world…

CLASSIFICATION: The Joe Pitt novels are a cross between hard-boiled noir, pulp fiction and horror distinguished by Huston’s razor-sharp dialogue, eclectic characters and over-the-top violence, all presented in a harshly unrestrained manner. Imagine I Am Legend without the apocalypse and co-written by Quentin Tarantino and Raymond Chandler…

FORMAT/INFO: My Dead Body is 336 pages long. Like the previous Joe Pitt novels, there are no chapter breaks, although the book does feature Charlie Huston’s own version of a Prologue and Epilogue, plus it also includes maps. Narration is in the first-person, exclusively through the protagonist Joe Pitt. Because Joe provides recaps of events from the previous novels, readers could technically pick up My Dead Body without having read the others first , but I would strongly advise against it if you want to understand the whole picture. My Dead Body is the fifth and final book in the Joe Pitt series — after Already Dead, No Dominion, Half the Blood of Brooklyn and Every Last Drop — and does a bang-up job of tying up loose ends, although another sequel or two wouldn’t be impossible to pull off…

October 13, 2009 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of My Dead Body via Del Rey. The UK edition will be released on December 3, 2009 by Orbit UK.

ANALYSIS: I love the Joe Pitt novels by Charlie Huston, who quickly became one of my favorite authors of all time ever since reading his book The Shotgun Rule. That said, I was disappointed by the last Joe Pitt novel. While Every Last Drop finally reveals the source of the Coalition’s blood supply — quite the gut-churning revelation — and takes Joe and Evie’s relationship to new levels, not to mention sparking a war between the Clans, the book as a whole felt incomplete. That’s because Every Last Drop was basically a setup novel with no resolutions or payoffs. So my disappointment in the book made me wonder if Charlie Huston could pull off a finale worthy of the series. That answer, unequivocally, is a yes…

Like the other sequels, My Dead Body starts out a year after the events of the previous volume. In this case, Joe has basically turned his back on everything and is barely scrounging out an existence in Manhattan’s underworld. Then one day he receives a visit from porn director Chubby Freeze asking Joe to find his daughter, a human who has not only fallen in love with a Vampyre, but is pregnant with a child that some view as The Uniter. Joe reluctantly agrees, not so much for Chubby, but because Evie asked him to and the very slim hope that his former girlfriend might give him another chance … if he succeeds that is.

From here, Huston weaves a story that is worthy of being the concluding volume in the Joe Pitt series. It features all of the main players up to this point including Terry Bird, Hurley, Lydia and the Society, Dexter Predo and the Coalition, Amanda Horde, Sela and the Cure Clan, DJ Grave Digga, Percy and the Hood, Evie, the Count and Enclave, and Phil Sax. The plot is wickedly dark, twisted and creative. The body count is high with many of the main players perishing in a manner that is unpredictable, spectacular, or sometimes both. Joe — who has already lost an eye, a toe and has a bad knee — suffers even greater physical abuse. And most of the series’ most pressing questions are answered by the end of the book. Like what is the Vyrus? (The answer is a doozy). Can Amanda come up with a cure? Who or what are Wraiths? Will the Coaliton’s blood supply in Queens be taken care of? Are the Enclave just crazy or was Daniel really right about them and Joe? Which Clan comes out on top? Will the Vampyres announce their presence to the rest of the world? And finally, do Joe & Evie get back together? Throw in monsters that hunt infected as well as humans, a doomsday plague, a zombie revelation and more, and it’s no question that My Dead Body ends the series with a bang…

Negatively, there were a number of confusing narrative breaks that required a reread or three to figure out exactly where Huston was coming from, thus interrupting the flow of the novel, but this was a minor complaint. Conversely, My Dead Body once again reminded me what I loved about the series like the dialogue, specifically the distinctive manner of speaking of certain characters (Amanda, Grave Digga, Hurley, Terry, etc) and their relationship with Joe, which really makes up the foundation on which the series turns. I also love the sense of realism the novels contain, so even though the books are about Vampyres and have featured zombies and Wraiths in the past, there’s a scientific explanation for almost everything that happens.

In the end, My Dead Body firmly dismissed any worries that I had about Charlie Huston concluding the series, with a finale that is stylish, powerful, and unforgiving. Just a brilliant finish to a brilliant series…

Joe Pitt Casebooks  — (2005-2009) Publisher: Those stories you hear? The ones about things that only come out at night? Things that feed on blood, feed on us? Got news for you: they’re true. Only it’s not like the movies or old man Stoker’s storybook. It’s worse. Especially if you happen to be one of them. Just ask Joe Pitt. There’s a shambler on the loose. Some fool who got himself infected with a flesh-eating bacteria is lurching around, trying to munch on folks’ brains. Joe hates shamblers, but he’s still the one who has to deal with them. That’s just the kind of life he has. Except afterlife might be better word. From the Battery to the Bronx, and from river to river, Manhattan is crawling with Vampyres. Joe is one of them, and he’s not happy about it. Yeah, he gets to be stronger and faster than you, and he’s tough as nails and hard to kill. But spending his nights trying to score a pint of blood to feed the Vyrus that’s eating at him isn’t his idea of a good time. And Joe doesn’t make it any easier on himself. Going his own way, refusing to ally with the Clans that run the undead underside of Manhattan — it ain’t easy. It’s worse once he gets mixed up with the Coalition — the city’s most powerful Clan — and finds himself searching for a poor little rich girl who’s gone missing in Alphabet City. Now the Coalition and the girl’s high-society parents are breathing down his neck, anarchist Vampyres are pushing him around, and a crazy Vampyre cult is stalking him. No time to complain, though. Got to find that girl and kill that shambler before the whip comes down… and before the sun comes up.

Charlie Huston Joe Pitt 1. Already Dead 2. No Dominion 3. Half the Blood of Brooklyn 4. Every Last DropCharlie Huston Joe Pitt 1. Already Dead 2. No Dominion 3. Half the Blood of Brooklyn 4. Every Last DropCharlie Huston Joe Pitt 1. Already Dead 2. No Dominion 3. Half the Blood of Brooklyn 4. Every Last DropCharlie Huston Joe Pitt 1. Already Dead 2. No Dominion 3. Half the Blood of Brooklyn 4. Every Last Drop 5. My Dead BodyCharlie Huston Joe Pitt 1. Already Dead 2. No Dominion 3. Half the Blood of Brooklyn 4. Every Last Drop 5. My Dead Body

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ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

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