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Dead To Me
Anton Strout
Ace, 368 pages

Dead To Me
Anton Strout
Anton Strout was born in the Berkshire Hills and lives in Jackson Heights, New York. His short story "The Lady in Red" can be found in the DAW Books anthology Pandora's Closet and a tie-in story to Dead To Me entitled "The Fourteenth Virtue" can be found in DAW's The Dimension Next Door in Fall 2008. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.

Anton Strout Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

Simon Canderous is a psychometrist, able to psychically read the histories of objects and people with which he interacts. In its time, this power has been both blessing and curse, putting an end to more relationships than he can count, but letting him enjoy a small sideline as a handler of antiques and secondhand goods. However, he's sworn to make something more of himself. As a member of New York's Department of Extraordinary Affairs, Other Division, he works to keep the Weird Stuff in the city from getting out of control. With his mentor, Connor Christos, he deals with zombies, ghosts, evil cultists, and all the other things that go 'schlorp' in the night, even as he handles the inevitable bureaucratic paperwork such a job entails. Hey, it's a living.

A chance encounter with a woman who doesn't realize she's a ghost leads to apocalyptic visions. In the mystery to discover who this woman is (and was), Simon is dragged into a series of bizarre events, where he's forced to fight evil cultists (who're protected by the law under annoying new statutes), dodge killer bookcases in the strangest bookstore in New York, retrieve a stolen wooden fish, and deal with an attractive-if-conflicted representative for the forces of Darkness. Is Simon up for the challenge, or would this be a great time to join the cast of Antique Roadshow? What secrets is the Sectarian Defense League really hiding? What's with the recent upswing in angry, restless undead? And will Simon ever get a girl who isn't freaked out by his ability to read her past? All will be revealed, if Simon and Connor can just get through the workday...

Dead To Me is a clever, fast-moving, way-too-fun new urban fantasy. It's action-packed with a convincing mystery and a tongue-in-cheek sense of self-aware humor that keeps it from taking itself too seriously. The bureaucratic elements aren't played for laughs, but neither are they as dry as they could have been. The end result is an amusing, enjoyable story. Unexpectedly, I found the very nature and functioning of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs and its personnel to be evocative of Harry Potter's Ministry of Magic, even though there's no blatant resemblance. The Director of the Greater & Lesser Arcana Division, Thaddeus Wesker, is as nasty on the outside, and morally ambiguous on the inside as a certain Professor Snape, while Other Division's Inspectre Argyle Quimbley owes a lot to Dumbledore in attitude towards handling his employees. Potter references aside, they make for memorable, engaging characters.

Dead To Me is a worthy debut for Anton Strout, and I greatly enjoyed the adventures of Simon, Connor, and the rest. I hope we'll see more along these lines from Strout, as I think his blend of intrigue, adventure, magic and humor occupies a welcome niche in the ever-growing urban fantasy field.

Copyright © 2008 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.

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