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Book Review “My Dead Body”

n304074 In 2005 I was burned out on Vampire novels. Anne Rice’s books really weren’t my thing. I thought they were more romance novels than horror novels.  And most of the other stuff out there was pretty derivative. Still TV shows like “Buffy” and “Angel” and comic book characters like Blade and Hannibal King from Marvel Comics “Tomb of Dracula” series had shown me that Vampires struggling against their nature to do soemthing good can make for some pretty compelling fictional characters.

It was that idea and the fact that Charlie Huston had already written two kick ass crime thrillers that made me pick up the first novel in his Joe Pitt Casebooks seriees “Already Dead” and I’m so glad I did.  It was the perfect blending of horror and everything I love about crime fiction.

In creating the world of Joe Pitt, it’s like Huston took the best elements of some of my favorite stories and made the ultimate cocktail. I see elements of films like “Blade 2” and “The Warriors”, classic private eye fiction, Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend”, and Garth Ennis’s comic “Preacher. If you like any of those things you’ll love what Huston does with vampires or vampyres as it it’s spelled in Pitt’s world.

The Joe Pitt casebooks take place in a world where vampyres are real. They’re not supernatural creatures, but there is a hint of the supernatural running through the series. They have been infected by a virus that makes them hunger for blood and amps up their physical abilities allowing them perform some amazing feats.  These Vampyres have gathered together to form clans, with different perspectives on how to make their way in the world.

The specific setting of the Joe Pitt books is New York City. The island of Manhattan has been divided up by a number of opposing clans. The two most powerful are the wealthy and secretive Coalition, who want to blend in and keep the world of Vampyres a secret. And The Society, a band of revolutionaries and rebels who use violence and intimidation in hopes of one day achieving their ultimate goal  of a world where man and Vampyre can exist in harmony.

Joe Pitt has history with both of those clans and because of that he doesn’t want anything to do with them. Like all noir anti-heroes trouble has a penchant for finding him. This usually happens as a result of a private detective style job Joe takes to make ends meet. Sometimes he has to hurt and kill a whole lot of people to succeed at those jobs and stay alive.  The one guiding light of Joe Pitt’s world is his girlfriend Evie, an HIV infected bar tender.

Now that I’ve set up Joe’s world I’m going to to attempt to do a spoiler free review “My Dead Body” the fifth and final book in the series. Joe Pitt’s story evolves over the course of the first four novels: the previously mentioned “Already Dead“, the second volume “No Dominion”, the third book “Half the Blood of Brooklyn”, and the fourth book “Every Last Drop.”

By the time “My Dead Body” begins, Joe Pitt is in the darkest of all places, underground. He’s ignited a full scale war between the major Vampyre clans of the city,  and his  beloved Evie doesn’t want to see him. He’s eking out an existance in the sewers of New York City. An old associate finds him and asks him to look for his daughter who disappeared into the chaotic Vampire underworld. Pitt agrees because he learns that Evie wants him to take the case.So he sees this  as an opportunity to fight his way back to the one good thing in his life.

What follows is a fast paced, blood soaked, action packed, horrific,  morally murky, poignant and fun story that takes place all over one night. Pitt is a charismatic underdog. You love him because of his quick wit and his endurance. Both are on display here.  Pitt undergoes a ton on physical punishment in this book, but he keeps going.  You also really feel and understand the love that keeps him going. It makes him easy to root for. And Huston bring Pitt’s story to a satisfying conclusion.

He also wraps up the stories of most of the book’s reoccurring characters in nice and interesting ways. Characters that are given especially cool arcs in “My Dead Body” include: Lydia Miles, a prominent Society member and leader of a cell of lesbian Vampyres, and Hurley the Society’s massive chief enforcer.

“My Dead Body” is more than just cool character moments though. You get a three way battle between members of the Coalition, The Society, and the mutated horrors of an insane researcher out to cure the virus.  You get Joe Pitt fighting to stay alive and put down all the evil in his world, as well as anything that stand between him and Evie.

Huston doesn’t tie up everything in “My Dead Body”. He leaves some things for the readers to decide, which I think ultimately makes for  more satisfying reading anyway. All of these elements combine to make “My Dead Body” the best book in the Joe Pitt series and a hell of a send off for the character and his fascinating world

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