Tuesday, 29 September 2009

‘My Dead Body’ – Charlie Huston (Del Rey/Orbit)


I’ve recently got into the habit of waking up far too early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep again; this morning saw me wake up at half past three... Yep, this morning I actually managed to wake up before the sparrows that live in our front garden (who will be getting a bucket of water thrown over them if they carry on with this dawn chorus lark) and today feels like it’s been going on for a week already.
That’s cool though, I may not have got much sleep but what I did get to do is finish off the final instalment in Charlie Huston’s ‘Joe Pitt Casebooks’ series. I’ve been waiting for ‘My Dead Body’ for just over a year now and it turned out to be well worth the wait. Joe Pitt can take a beating that would leave most hard men crying for their mothers and still get up to... well, you’re just going to have to read the book and find out. It’s worth it.

The last time we saw Joe Pitt he was making his way into the New York sewers after having kicked the legs out from under the infrastructure of the Vampyre network and lost his girlfriend to the Enclave. There’s always a little further for a man like Pitt to fall but now it looks like he’s got one more chance to have a shot at... well, everything that’s ever pissed him off. Girls go missing, in New York, every day but only one of them has a Vampyre boyfriend and is carrying his baby. All the clans want the baby; the girl’s father just wants her back and Joe has agreed to find her for him. However, if finding this girl gives Joe a chance to settle some scores of his own then you just know he’ll grab that opportunity with both hands...

Some very good books indeed have laid the groundwork for the finale of ‘My Dead Body’ and there was no way that I was going to miss how it all turned out. On the whole, I wasn’t disappointed.
Huston has written another taut tale set on streets that you can almost feel underfoot as Pitt runs (or more often that not, crawls...) down them. Everyone is on the take and alliances shift and change as quickly as Pitt gets through his cigarettes. The resulting dialogue crackles with attitude and tension although it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of who is saying what (Huston focuses on what is said to the exclusion of who is saying it). There’s an underlying nervous energy to the proceedings as well which drives the plot along at a frantic pace. When you’re living on your nerves, on the very fringes of ‘normal’ society, you end up being driven by them. Now multiply that feeling by the number of players in this piece (and what they are going through) and you’ve got an idea of just what is powering this book along as well as why I found it impossible to put down. This is what ‘Urban Fantasy’ is really all about. I’ve said before that Huston is writing to a formula, and shows no signs of changing, but when it works so well is there any need to fix it?

‘My Dead Body’ takes all of it’s strands and weaves them together in such a way that everything fits together but you’re left with a picture that you were never expecting. You think you know what Pitt is up to but that is just he wants everyone to think. Watching it all come together, at the end, is a joy and the constant feeling that there’s more to this than meets the eye keeps things fresh and gives the reader plenty to think about. However, I found myself questioning the way in which Huston chose to tie certain things off...

The Vampyre ‘Vyrus’ has been a mystery throughout the series and Huston gives us a possible explanation of its origins; it’s not set in stone though (as least not as far as I could tell) and we’re left to make up our own minds as to the truth. I liked this approach; Huston is almost telling us that what’s going on for Pitt and co. is the really important stuff; the Vyrus is just a fact of life and is almost incidental to the story itself.
What I wasn’t so sure of was the way that Huston took Pitt on a journey to meet all his old friends/enemies before the end of the book. Loose ends need to be tied up but the way Huston went about it (sort out business with Person A and then onto Person B etc) ended up feeling a little repetitive and more like an author saying goodbye to his story rather than telling the story itself...

This is only a small niggle though when placed against an otherwise excellent book and a series that I’ve always enjoyed reading. It’s a real shame that it’s ended but Huston has another book (‘Sleepless’) coming out next year...
‘My Dead Body’ is an October release from Del Rey, I’m not sure exactly when Orbit will be publishing it in the UK (Edited To Add: I do now! It'll be published on the 3rd of December).

Nine and a Quarter out of Ten.

3 comments:

bubbasmom said...

Ooh! Can't wait! I just sort of wish this wasn't the last installment.

Mishel said...

Very glad to hear you liked this. It's sad that today is the first day I've heardr of Charlie or his books.

lkeke35 said...

You once asked about male characters in urban fantasy and I came up with a few.
Back in the 90's John D. McDonald wrote a book called the Apocalypse Door and there was another writer, last name of "Ford" who wrote about elves in 1930's Chicago.
There's a writer from Cleveland who has a couple of novels out. The first one is titled Dragons of the Cuyahoga.
I hope this is helpful.