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Dead To Me    by Anton Strout order for
Dead To Me
by Anton Strout
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Simon Canderous has a remarkable job in New York City's Department of Extraordinary Affairs (DEA): as a recently hired specialist in pschometry (a person with the power to touch an object and divine information about its history), Simon is still learning his way around the secret bureaucracy and picking up the basics of singular investigations in the 'hush-hush offshoot of the mayor's office that deals with paranormal matters in the Tri-State area.'

Moving ahead from his former 'life of thievery and running with a criminal crowd,' Simon acknowledges that he had a reputation as a bottom-feeder, but now - especially by relying upon Connor Christos as his friend and mentor - the young New Yorker with an apartment downtown in Soho seems to have unlimited potential in his new career. Simon unabashedly admits that he is often 'a passive passenger in his visions,' but for the most part he feels enthusiastic and energized in 'the world of the weird' within NYC's DEA.

However, when Simon and Connor encounter the beautiful and seductive Irene Blatt, everything suddenly becomes complicated - and dangerous. While visiting the Lovecraft Café and Movie House (behind which are the DEA's hidden headquarters), Simon and Connor watch as a spilled cup of coffee passes through Irene's spectral figure, which confirms Irene's ghostly status. Irene, though, does not know and does not believe that she is dead, and apparently - if she is to be believed - she knows nothing about her past. So, with a responsibility for helping dead people make their transitions easily to the other side, Simon and Connor, upon encountering the paradoxically lively Irene, face difficult challenges, for it will soon become clear to them that 'something peculiar is going on in the spirit world' and Irene's death (which turns out to have been a murder) is a problematic mystery with overtones of the 'wrath of God apocalypse stuff.' As Simon probes deeper in the history of Irene's life and the mystery of her death - by relying heavily upon psychometry, his friend and mentor Connor, an intriguing corps of peculiar friends and acquaintances, and the Tome Sweet Tome bookstore (and off-the-wall research center) - Simon negotiates a fantastic labyrinth of enigmatic clues and dangerous detours in his progress to a solution.

Delightfully strange and thoroughly entertaining, Dead To Me by debut novelist Anton Strout is a fun-filled account of Simon's indefatigable pursuit of the truth (about Irene and himself as well) in spite of obstacles that are simultaneously dark, surprising, magical, amusing, and cursed. Fans of urban fantasy should especially enjoy Strout's engaging new protagonist and will, no doubt, look forward to Simon Canderous making a quick return in further adventures.

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