Normally an investigator isn’t going to be able to ask a murder victim who their killer was, but then Eric Carter isn’t a normal investigator. He’s a necromancer, someone able to see and communicate with the dead. It’s a skill he’s leveraged into a career of sorts, traveling from place to place hiring himself out to whoever needs a wayward or troublesome ghost or spirit taken care of.
He comes from a family of mages, but when his parents were killed fifteen years ago Carter left LA and hasn’t seen his sister since. Of course, before he blew town he tracked down the man responsible for his parents’ deaths and dispatched him in particularly gruesome, and final, fashion.
When he’s called back to town with news that his sister has been brutally killed in her own home, Carter vows to find her killer and settle the score. Upon visiting the scene of her murder, however, Carter discovers that whoever killed her deliberately did so in such a fashion that did not allow his sister to leave a ghost behind–all that’s left is an Echo, a supernatural recording of his sister’s last minutes of life.
And as Carter watches the echo of his sister’s murder play out, he’s stunned to see the killer write a message on the wall in blood, one they erase before leaving the scene. Why write a message and then wipe it away before anyone can see it? Because the killer knew there was one person who would be able to see it even after it was gone: “WELCOME HOME, ERIC.”
Dead Things, author Stephen Blackmoore’s follow-up to last year’s City of the Lost, once again takes readers for a journey through haunted LA. And though there are a few nods to City of the Lost that let you know Blackmoore’s playing in the same supernatural sandbox, Eric Carter is a very different lead than City’s Joe Sunday. Whereas Sunday was more of a hardboiled, wisecracking detective, Carter is closer to a jaded, sardonic mercenary. Though not even fully aware of it, Carter’s been carrying around a massive load of guilt for the past fifteen years, running both literally and figuratively from his past. That guilt, combined with all the things he’s seen and done–all the people he’s killed–has beaten him down severely.
Which is not the best state to be in given the daunting list of suspects he has to sort through. First, there’s the gangster who took the place of the man Carter murdered on his way out of LA all those years ago. Seems he’s still holding a grudge about Carter using him to kick off his murderous plot and getting him burned–literally–in the process. Then there’s the possibility that the man Carter thought he killed, who was himself a mage, has found a way to reach out from the great beyond to exact his own revenge. And just to make things really challenging, Santa Muerte has taken a special interest in Carter…never a good thing when you’re dealing with the patron saint of death.
Through it all Blackmoore paints a vivid picture of ghostly LA, one filled with Echos, Wanderers (spirits able to move about freely) and Haunts (spirits tied to the place they were killed), all of which Carter can’t help but see as he attempts to go about his business. Along the way Carter makes liberal use of his magical abilities–the spells and wards used range from amusing (the equivalent of the Jedi mind trick) to horrifying (reanimating corpses)–takes a trip or two to the dead side, and comes to the undeniable conclusion that Dead Things are often much more dangerous than the living.
I’ve never been to LA in reality, but I can’t wait to visit Blackmoore’s colorful and haunted version of it again.
Dead Things is available from DAW (ISBN: 978-0756407742).