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Monday, October 18, 2010

'Death most Definite' Death Works #1 by Trent JAMIESON

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:


Steve knew something was wrong the moment he saw the dead girl in the Wintergarden food court. Nothing new, he saw dead people all the time, but this one was about to save his life…Steve works in the family firm. He is a Pomp – tasked with easing spirits from this dimension to the next after death. And he s kind of OK with that, until someone high up the corporate hierarchy makes a bid to be Australia s new Regional Death. This means killing all of the current Pomp necromancer he ever knew has been killed, Steve is left to make a reluctant stand.But to do this he must stay alive. Threatened at every turn, Steve and the dangerously attractive (and dead) Lissa go on the run to save what s left of their world.

Steven de Selby is a Psychopomp. No, he’s not British nor is he insane. He’s a Pomp – which means he helps ease ghosts into the afterlife. Steven ‘touches’ a ghost and they get pulled through him like a spiderweb through skin, off towards the light and the great beyond.
Pomping is a serious business, and Steven works for the big Australian Pomp agency, Mortmax in the Brisbane offices.

Pomping is a family business for the de Selby’s. Steven had a grandfather who Pomped during World War II and both his mother and father currently work for Mortmax. The de Selby’s take pride in what they do. . . except for Steven. He enjoys the danger and adrenaline, the pay check and the random hours. But he’s aimless, unmotivated and uncaring. . . Until an encounter with an attractive ghost called Lissa sets tragic events in motion. . .

Steven is attacked and he’s not the only one. Pomp’s are dying across Australia – first in Melbourne now in Brisbane. There’s a violent coup taking place and Steven doesn’t know who to trust – he’s one of the last Pomp’s left in the city and every ghost is coming to him for crossover.

‘Death more Definite’ is the first book in debut urban-fantasy series ‘Death Works’ by Australian author, Trent Jamieson.

Jamieson has created an intricate and fascinating supernatural world revolving around death. The ghosts, the Pomp’s and the ‘Stirrers’ – those things that want to travel the opposite way and come from the world of death to the world of the living. Brilliant! And even more wonderful for the juxtaposition of death with corporation. Mortmax is a unique business, offering a vital service to the community and working with the government to regulate themselves. ‘Death most Definite’ looks at the corporate side of death with some fascinating twists and take-overs.

The book reminded me somewhat of Stacia Kane’s ‘Downside’ series, which is also about ghost hunters (using pomps to dispose of spirits). But one of the wonderful distinctions between Jamieson’s book and Kane’s is that ‘Death Works’ is set in the real world. . . Brisbane, Australia to be exact.

The book is set in Brisbane’s CBD and I loved the Aussie setting. Jamieson uses it completely to his advantage – juxtaposing the mundane with the supernatural (like Steven seeing a ghost in a shopping centre food-court). I loved reading about all the familiar places; from Albion to Queen Street Mall. There’s not enough Australian urban-fantasy out there, so I really appreciated reading something with a hint of home-grown ocker. It meant that Jamieson’s subtle references were made and appreciated – like a Melbournian talking down to Brisbane-boy, Steven.

I also really liked the character of Steven de Selby. He’s not your typical hero – he’s an aimless twenty-something coasting along in life and entirely relatable. He’s thrown into the deep-end of an apocalyptic corporate takeover and the resulting fight for Australia is a hard character push for him. He’s so many blokes that I know and I loved the fact that Jamieson made a hero out of a slacker. And really, there’s no one less prepared for a Pomp-coup when the shit hits the fan;
Lissa flits around me. “As long as they keep coming to you, you do your job.” Her eyes are wide and set to ignite. “You didn’t want this? Well, neither did I, boy. But we chose this, none the less, when we chose to do what our parents did. Without us, without you, things are going to get bad and fast. So do your job.”
I will say that the romance in the book didn’t work for me, at all. Steven falls for Lissa too quickly and implausibly and the rush-job on their romance almost detracted from the book’s second-half. When Steven first meets Lissa he knows that she is a ghost. He knows she is dead, and as a Pomp he knows that she is half-way to the underworld. Yet he still finds her attractive (incredibly so) and begrudgingly falls for her. I’m not talking about a little infatuation – I mean that by page-71 he has decided that he loves her:
“I've fallen in love with someone I cannot have. Someone who isn’t really a someone anymore. How bloody typical. . .”
This revelation comes after he and Lissa have met about three times (with Steven knowing from the get-go that she is dead and a ghost) and I just wasn’t buying it. There wasn’t enough substance or heat to their banter, and it’s not helped by Steven repeatedly admiring Lissa’s hotness and ass – I read that as him lusting after her and being interested in her for purely superficial reasons. But love? No way. And I kind of resented the fact that Jamieson was really pushing the love angle – to the point that Steven was constantly mentioning his growing adoration and Lissa’s beautiful face.

Jamieson tries to explain away Steven’s speedy romance by occasionally dropping hints about an ex girlfriend called Robyn who walked out on him three years ago. Three years and Steven hasn’t dated since and still has her toothbrush and perfume in his medicine cabinet. Clearly, he isn’t exactly partaking of healthy romantic relationships. But even starving for love and being hung-up on an ex girlfriend wasn’t enough justification for his quick love for Lissa, I’m afraid.

I may have been willing to invest in the romance if Jamieson had backed it up with instantaneous chemistry – but Lissa and Steven’s banter wasn’t hot enough and there were too many big obstacles against them to justify their implausible love. Sorry. Their relationship reminded me a little bit of Chuck and Ned in ‘Pushing Daisies’. . . without the childhood romance to sweeten the deal.

I really enjoyed ‘Death most Definite’, a story about corporate death, impending Australian apocalypse and aimless heroes. The Australian setting is a breath of fresh air and the bad-guy is a curveball between the eyes. The romance didn’t work for me, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more books in the ‘Death Works’ series.

3.5/5

'Managing Death' Death Works #2 - December 2010

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