Jan 7, 2011

Book Review: Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson

Death Most Definite was Trent Jamieson's debut novel. It's now become part of his Death Works series, book two Managing Death ,was released late last year and I will be reviewing it in the coming weeks.

The novel is classed as Urban Fantasy but could also comfortably fit in to the Paranormal category, well maybe Paranormal for blokes.  I like that Orbit have gone with a sensible cover too - not a tribal tattoo in sight.  

I am not a fan of paranormal fiction, or pop culture shows like the Ghost Whisperer.  I am also fairly skeptical when it comes to the 'ability' of people to speak to the dead.  

This is fiction, however, and what I enjoy is a good story with a bit of action, humour and romance.  Death Most Definite has a good apportioning of each. I am reminded a bit of Gaiman and Pratchett in Good Omens and  Jim Butcher's work.  Death Most Definite, though, has a feel that is uniquely Australian.

The Story
Steven de Selby is a pomp (Psychopomp), a person with the ability to help the deceased pass over into the underworld.  He's not that good at his job though, he's listless, born into the business and not all that keen, though the money is good. Steven works for Mortmax Industries the company with the market share on pomping in the Australian region.   

His life changes dramatically when he is saved by a dead girl who refuses to be 'pomped'. On the run from a crazed gunman he begins to unravel a plot involving a corporate takeover.  Someone is trying to kill all the pomps and take over Mortmax and the business of death down under,  it's up to de Selby and this mysterious dead girl to get to the bottom of it before de Selby ends up on the other side- permanently.

What I liked
Steven's self deprecating humor and wit - equal measure of witty one liners and more high brow offerings. 

The Australian location and references; I used to suffer a bit of cultural cringe when reading Australian spec fic writers who set their stories in Australia, perhaps my tastes are maturing or the writing is better. Jamieson's Brisbane,however, doesn't feel contrived or out of place- he has used the setting to great effect, to enhance the story and give us something that feels real.

The picture Jamieson's paints of the Death Works underworld is refreshingly unique also. There's no ley lines or standing stones and not a bit of Celtic knot work in sight.   Neither does he appropriate any faux-aboriginal spiritual tropes.  If anything Jamieson's underworld has its roots in more classical interpretations of the death and the underworld.

What I didn't 
This is a good first novel and there only a couple of minor quibbles that lessened my enjoyment(even that might be putting it too harshly). Steven de Selby does a lot of running around, unsure of what to do, perfectly realistic though this is, it had an effect on the momentum of the story.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the wit, at one point I distinctly remember being jolted out of my enjoyment of the story by a one liner.  The humour began to feel overused, unnecessary.  Then the momentum swept me away again and all was forgiven.

Summing it up
Trent Jamieson has won a fan here with witty writing and a unique take on the afterlife.  I am am keen to read Managing Death to see how Jamieson has refined his character and writing.  

This book was supplied at no cost to myself by Orbit  Australia.


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