Dead To Me by Anton Strout
Everything Simon Canderous touches turns into drama. Literally. The protagonist in Anton Strout’s surprisingly fresh urban fiction series is a professional psychometrist; he is able to relive and know the history of any object he touches. The story follows his beginnings in a dodgy, underfunded government agency specializing in paranormal investigation.
Dead To Me is the first novel in the Simon Canderous series, and it opens us to the world of Mr. Canderous and his Department of Extraordinary Affairs (DEA) with a fast-paced, exciting read. We first meet Simon in the midst of a romantic situation and immediately learn that his power may not be as wonderful as one would think. Having the ability to know someone’s entire history can really kill the mood, especially when that history may involve some bad Mardi Gras decisions. Poor Simon is being seduced, and with one touch of the girl’s cell phone, he’s accosted with images of her partying past, Mardi Gras beads and all. Like every girl before her, he’s too horrified to get over what he’s seen, and he finds himself disgruntled and alone again.
What I really can appreciate about Dead To Me is the edginess Strout invokes into the story. The author really explores the more negative aspects of having a special ability and isn’t afraid to show the darker sides of those who may posses them. Simon is a reformed thief and didn’t always use his ability for “good.” He has terrible luck in love and isn’t quite sure he’s ready to be completely good.
The agency he now works for, although well-intentioned, possesses a slough of dodgy characters that keeps the reader guessing who is really a hero and who may be up to no good. I also liked the notion of the DEA being a low budget operation, seeing many of the agents forced to pull double duty or foray into areas that cater not to their expertise whatsoever. The backdrop of a modern day New York City further lends itself to the realism that the author has mastered, one cab and sketchy alley at a time.
Strout writes with a dense style, using long sentences packed full of description and an interesting blend of one-liners, pop culture references, and slang. My only real criticism for the novel is that at times I did find this in-your-face writing a bit over the top. Yet, for the most part I was thankful for the breakneck speed at which the punchline-a-minute style keeps the plot moving. I’m also appreciative for the regularity but subtlety of the more graphic scenes. There is plenty of sex, violence, and swearing, but it’s never gratuitous, and it helps give the novel an adult feel.
All in all, the elements I need to keep me interested in the series are all lined up. I’m attached to Simon Canderous now, and I look forward to the second book: Deader Still.