Deep Down by Deborah Coates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As is the usual preamble, I received this book in a GoodReads giveaway. Despite that kind consideration of sending me books in the mail for free, I will render my candid opinions below. It’s also worth noting that I haven’t read the first book in this series so I’m coming in a bit in the middle of things.
Our protagonist is seeing ghosts. Not in the usual metaphorical sense but in the quite literal sense. Not just ghosts but Harbingers of Death, Reapers and that most grim of Grims, Death himself. Worse than that, something seems amiss in the normally orderly and happy hierarchy of the pantheon of the great beyond. Luckily, there’s someone to put things to the right.
So as far as original story lines go, this one has a lot going for it. It’s sort of a conglomeration of ‘Dead Like Me’ and a Dashiell Hammett novel with maybe a bit of ‘Topper’ thrown in. Our protagonist has a “gift” but she’s also rather a slave to it at the same time and you can sense her building frustration as the powers that be make her a rather casual pawn in the whole scheme of the universe. One exchange in particular made me laugh out loud (that sort of barking “glad it’s not me” laugh really more than an amused one) and sums up the tone of the story nicely:
“I don’t remember that,” he (death) said. He leaned on his cane, and his expression seemed serene to Hallie, like none of this mattered as much as it ought to. And it ought to matter a lot because … well, because it was pretty important that there be a line between the living and the dead. Like, pretty damned important.
“You need to do something,” Hallie said.
He looked at her for what felt like an uncomfortably long time. “I am doing something,” he said.
“I have you.”
On the other side of the ledger, for all its originality, this book is one of those that is very subtle in its delivery and easy to be distracted from. Potential readers are advised to make sure they have absolute solitude when trying to consume it lest they become distracted. Not one you want to try to read in the waiting room at the dentist. Also, the novel does lean fairly heavily on its predecessor. While the author does a fine job of ‘catching up’ those who haven’t read the first, it would be much better to go back and start from the proper beginning.
In summary, “Deep Down” continues an amusing thread of narrative but doesn’t grasp the reader around the throat like many in this genre. A worthwhile novel to pursue for certain but best for a long, rainy weekend and only after having read the first of the series.
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