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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Anton Strout: Simon Canderous

Author: Anton Strout 
Plot Type: UF
Ratings: V4, S2-3, H4
Publisher and Titles:  Ace
      Dead to Me 2011
      Deader Still (2009)
      Dead Matter (2010)
      Dead Waters (2011)

     The newest book in this series (Dead Waters) is just out, and it continues Simon's battles against the dark supernatural powers that inhabit New York City. This time, a university professor is found dead in his luxury high-rise apartment, seemingly drowned, but there is no water anywhere except in his lungs. Simon, Conner, and Jane investigate the crime and soon find a connection with a mysterious dark-haired woman who has immense powers over water. In the meantime, Simon has commitment problems when Jane asks him to give her more drawer space in his bedroom. By the end of the story, the murder is solved, albeit in a strange and supernatural way, and Simon and Jane's relationship is forever transformed. As always, there are lots of zombies, including aquatic ones.

Here's a synopsis of the series so far:

     Simon is a psychometrist; he has the power to touch an object and divine information about its history. In his younger years, Simon used his power for illegal gain, but now he’s gone straight. Simon has been hired by New York City’s Department of Extraordinary Affairs (DEA), which handles all of the city’s supernatural problems and which is entered through a bespelled door in a horror movie theater. Simon's favorite weapon is a retractable metal bat.  

     With its enchanted furniture, supernaturally empowered workers, constant budget problems, and endless paperwork, the DEA is a cross between Simon Green’s Nightside and Terry Gilliam’s mind-numbing bureaucracy in the movie Brazil. The DEA has many divisions (e.g., Haunts-General, Greater and Lesser Arcana), each with its own director and its own rules and regulations, and all of them require reams of paperwork for even the simplest action. The DEA controls the public’s knowledge of the supernatural through the Mayor’s Office of Plausible Deniability. (A zombie attack at a fashion show is spun as just a new style of runway walking.) Much of the humor comes from the goings on at the DEA, including the sarcastic dialogue among the staff members.

     Simon, along with his ghost-catching partner, Connor, and his technomancer girlfriend, Jane, gets involved with a variety of bad guys, from ghost-sucking cultists to chupacabra-stealing gypsies and a (literal) corporate headhunter. And there are always plenty of zombies to mix up the action.

     The series has an interesting character in Simon, the former thief who switches over to the law-abiding side of the justice system. Simon has all of the neurotic anxiety and worrisome life problems that any human would have, but his are compounded by the repercussions from his psychometric powers. Remember, unless he wears gloves, Simon gets blowback from everything he touches. The plots can get a bit monotonous, what with one indistinguishable zombie battle after another, but the story lines can be inventive, and sometimes the enemies are not zombiesalways a refreshing break. If you'd like a sardonic urban fantasy hero instead of a heroine, this one's for you.

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