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Dead Harvest

Dead Harvest is a detective horror story with a neat little twist; the lead character, Sam Thornton, is dead and damned, doomed to roam the earth as a ghost. His soul belongs to the powers of hell and he has been cursed to collect the souls of sinners and send them to the demons. Urban fantasy1 is tricky genre to get right; mix in too much of the supernatural and the tale becomes a clichéd creature feature, mix in too many mundane elements and the spooky parts seem gimmicky and false. Dead Harvest pulls of the rare feat of getting it exactly right; Sam’s power to possess the bodies of the dead (and the living) makes consistent sense, as does his doomed (and tear-jerking) backstory.

Like any good detective story, a young lady turns Sam’s world upside down, and the tale quickly becomes an action-movie inspired romp. As the main characters run from one dangerous situation to another, we grow to care about the supporting cast and learn more about this world where heaven and hell are so very close to an unknowing (and often uncaring) human race.

The retro styled cover tells us that the tale is hardboiled

It’s pretty rapidly paced; the peril is layered on pretty thick and it’s this sense of urgency that really draws the reader in. The story takes place over a few short days, lending a leanness and speed to the whole thing. A good mystery story keeps the reader guessing, and though some of the twists seem obvious, the devil is the details. (I’m not going to tell you if I mean that literally. Read it for yourself and see.)

Fans of the Harry Dresden series and those who like their modern-day fantasy with a twist of hardboiled detective story will love this (as will fans of Good Omens and In Nomine). I firmly expect this page-turner to do well, and am pleased to hear that a sequel is already in the works.

1: A clunky term that usually means ‘set in the real world, with supernatural elements’. Typically with a healthy dose of horror story staples like ghosts and werewolves thrown in for good measure.

Categories: Books, Reviews
  1. December 29, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Solid review of a fantastic book.

  2. Sabrina E. Ogden
    December 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Excellent review. I’m looking forward to reading this one.

  3. Ash
    December 29, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I was at a panel with Jim Butcher last year, and he and the other ‘Urban Fantasy’ writers are desperately looking for a new name for what they do to separate themselves from Stephanie Meyer, Laurel K Hamilton, and their ilk.

    • December 29, 2011 at 5:25 pm

      I’m not convinced that’s a good idea. After all, fans of Laurel K Hamilton may find themselves reading Kelley Armstrong. And fans of Kelley Armstrong tend to enjoy Jim Butcher, and so on. Dark Fantasy is handy tag, and is as general as other genre labels.

      • Ash
        December 30, 2011 at 7:06 pm

        One of the points made at the panel is that it is important not to confuse Setting for Genre. Laurel K Hamilton’s settings are similar to Jim Butcher’s – but they work in completely different /genres/, putting their books in the same category would be like putting Bravo Two Zero next to Black Lace. Jim and the other panellists were keen to stress that they were not in any way denigrating the paranormal erotica/romance genre (and wished they had the sales figures of the other genre).

        In the states most books are sold through walmart and the like (and sales there drives publishing which in turn drives sales elsewhere), and so because there is only room for 10 genres in the store (and every store is the same) to be sold the book must fit within an established ‘genre’. As a result there is somewhat of a crisis in the sales arm of publishing companies as they struggle to slip their ninjas-with-cowboys-detective-novels in amongst the successful cowboy-horror-anthology genre books. Then if the ninjas-with-cowboys-detective-novels become popular enough you will find cowboy-horror-anthologies and ninja-romance-comedies marketed as N.w.C.D.N.s … as a result you don’t really know what you are buying if you are shopping in a US store. Hence the push to differentiate romance/erotica-fantasy-modern (Stephanie Meyers) from paranomal-adventure-modern (Jim Butcher etc) and fantasy-horror-urban (China Meiville etc) [modern-horror-paranormal and fantasy-adventure already have their own shelves, though fantasy-adventure is recently MIA in stores]. The more the genres differentiate the more other genres merge on the shelf and the more shelf space is available for Meyersalikes, Butcheralikes and Meivillealikes.

  1. February 27, 2012 at 11:52 am

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