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Managing Death, book #2 in Trent Jamieson’s Death Works series, picks up a mere two months after the end of book #1, Death Most Definite… and Regional Manager Steven de Selby still has a lot to learn about being Death. He could really use an instruction manual!

 

From Amazon.com:

It’s not easy being Death. For starters, people keep dying. And then, they keep getting up again.

Steven de Selby got promoted. This makes the increasing number of stirrers (and the disturbing rumors of a zombie god rising sometime soon) his problem. That time management seminar he keeps meaning to take would also remind him that he’s got a Death Moot to plan, a Christmas party to organize, and an end-of-the-world thing to avert.

Steven must start managing Death, before Death starts managing him, or this time the Apocalypse will be more than Regional.


Steven’s been slacking off a bit on the job. He has horrific nightmares, even though he doesn’t really need to sleep at all, and so he drinks too much. Being Death isn’t all its cracked up to be. With the other twelve Regional Managers arriving in Brisbane in a matter of days for the biannual Death Moot that he still needs to organize, his girlfriend angry with him and someone trying to kill him… again… it’s no wonder he’s been hitting the bottle kind of hard.

Then there’s the bizarre Stirrer activity and, oh yeah… the Stirrer god that’s approaching to end the world. Steven needs to do something about that, too. Where is that to-do list again? The problem is that he was just a regular old Pomp before Morrigan, the Ankou to Mr. D, Steven’s predecessor, began a Schism and killed all of the other Pomps in the region, Steven’s parents and Lissa included, in an attempt to grab the Regional Manager position for himself. Steven defeated Morrigan during the Negotiation but he’s a bit clueless as to where to go from there.

Sure, he’s Death and has all kinds of mad skills due to that little promotion, but he still hasn’t come into his power. Not fully. There’s political maneuvering amongst the other RMs and he doesn’t know who to trust. He’s been offered an alliance by a couple of them and accepting one of them might seriously jeopardize his relationship with Lissa. Would he do such a thing? He loves Lissa, went into Hell itself to bring her back… sure, he really needs the help but would he lie to her to get it?

It took me a bit to get into this book but I don’t think it had anything to do with the story. It was just me, being distracted and trying to start reading entirely too late at night. Once I had some time and wasn’t so tired, I tore through it relatively quickly and happily, had that ‘can’t put it down’ feeling that I absolutely love to have. I enjoyed Steven’s bit of rebellion, his grudging decision to knuckle down and do his job and finally, his acceptance of what he must do, despite the way responsibility has once again been thrust on him unasked for and unwanted.

Once again, Steven breaks the rules to save his love and that’s a touching addition. His tendency to want to physically touch Lissa whenever possible is a sweet reminder of how badly he wanted to touch her in book #1 but was unable to do so, else he pomp her and send her spirit to Hell. His love for Lissa, I think, is a driving force for him to do what must be done to save the world and that bit of humanity that he’s hanging onto tooth and nail is one reason I’m so enamored of this story.

But I must also mention the humor. I found myself chuckling quite often while reading this book, as well as while reading book #1.  Steven is a snarky, reluctant protagonist and I adore his dry sense of humor and various pop culture references. Jamieson has me hooked and I will anxiously await the release of the next book in the series, The Business of Death, due out in September of this year. Come oooonn, September!

Fave quotes:

“When did you last reply to one of my invitations on Facebook, or comment on an update? You’re not even following me on Twitter.” ~Death

‘We saved each other. Whether it was the right thing or not, it was the only thing either of us would have done. And hang the consequences.’

‘I see stars, literally all sorts of unnerving constellations. Aquarius-today you will have the shit beaten out of you, dope. Dress for wet weather, and probable death.’

‘I feel like I’m an out-take of Highlander. “There can only be one,” I mumble.’

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Published in August of 2010, book #1 of the Death Works series is Death Most Definite, Australian author Trent Jamieson’s debut novel. Set in the city of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, the story focuses on Psychopomp Steven de Selby, whose job it is to facilitate the journey of the souls of the newly dead to the afterlife. Yet the newly dead girl he just met doesn’t want him to do so. Instead of needing him to ease her journey to the Underworld, she’s trying to save his life.

 

The back cover blurb:

Steven de Selby has a hangover. Bright lights, loud noise, and lots of exercise are the last thing he wants. But that’s exactly what he gets when someone starts shooting at him.

Steven is no stranger to death-Mr. D’s his boss after all-but when a dead girl saves him from sharing her fate, he finds himself on the wrong end of the barrel. His job is to guide the restless dead to the underworld but now his clients are his own colleagues, friends, and family.

Mr. D’s gone missing and with no one in charge, the dead start to rise, the living are hunted, and the whole city teeters on the brink of a regional apocalypse-unless Steven can shake his hangover, not fall for the dead girl, and find out what happened to his boss- that is, Death himself.

 

It’s a certainty that our main character, Pomp Steve de Selby, wouldn’t have lived through the first chapter had it not been for  newly deceased Lissa Jones. A fact which makes him tend to rather like her quite a lot. Maybe a little too much. Even though she’s dead.

After the attempt on his life, things just go from bad to worse to horrific for Steve and he’s literally running for his life while those around him are all dragged down. So here he is, attempting to deal with the dreadful weight of loss and betrayal that’s been heaped upon him out of nowhere, while realizing that he’s the only one left who might be able to prevent a regional apocalypse.

The dead need to be pomped and as time passes and his Pomp colleagues dwindle, Steven is the only one who can ease their passing to the Underworld. And dammit, it’s getting hard! To make matters worse, Stirrers are beginning to inhabit the bodies whose souls are seeking passage. They’re everywhere and they’re after Steven. Now, Stirrers aren’t your run-of-the-mill, Romero-esque, living flesh-eating zombies. Oh, no… they’re much worse. Here’s how the book describes an outbreak of Stirrers:

Bodies will disappear from morgues, people will see their deceased loved ones walking in the street, or wake up with them in their bed. And there will be no joy in the occasion, because they are not loved ones, just something that possesses their memories: an imperfect and deadly mimic.

Stirrers are voids. They will turn a house cold and they will swallow laughter. They are the worst aspects of time only sped up and grown cruelly cunning. Bad luck follows them.

The scariest thing about them is that instead of mindless sacks of flesh and bone shambling aimlessly about and trying to eat people, Stirrers are actual beings from the depths of the Underworld that inhabit dead bodies and move them about. They do very unzombie-like things like talking and driving cars and shooting at people and such. People like poor Steven de Selby. As a Psychopomp, he can “stall” these Stirrers, or banish them from the bodies they inhabit. He only needs to shed some blood, his blood, and touch them to do so. But it’s difficult, it’s painful, and they’re just… everywhere.

Steven is racing against the clock, trying to avoid being wiped out, trying to avoid the Stirrers, trying to discover his betrayer and the reason for the Pomp massacre, trying to stop the apocalypse… and trying to find his boss because as creepy as he is, Steven could really use his advice and assistance. Where in hell is Death, anyway? With help from the dead girl he’s falling for,  despite knowing better, and a couple of Black Sheeps who didn’t want to join in the family business but happen to be relatives of newly murdered Pomps, he’s going to try to find out. Even if it means going to hell and back.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, the humor in the writing and the way Steven wore his heart on his sleeve. His bewilderment and pain in the face of the fiasco his life and his world became, literally in the blink of an eye, were believable and it was easy to sympathize with his plight. The story was fast-paced and the plot was like nothing I’ve read before. It held my interest so completely that I read it in three parts, kicking out the entire last half of the 320 page paperback in one sitting. I most definitely look forward to the next installment of the series, the recently released Managing Death.

Fave quotes:

‘It’s the first new law of the universe according to Steven de Selby’s life: things always get worse-and then they explode.’

‘Why were the seventies all about vomit colors?’

‘This would all be so very Mad Max if I was driving a V8, and if it wasn’t me.’

‘Shit, give dead people firearms and soon enough it’s all they know. Shoot this, blast that.’

“I never bothered with a computer for the real work. Who needs one, eh? Though I do like my Twitter.” ~Death

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