Dying Is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release date: October 8 2013
Source: e-ARC from Publisher via NetGalley
In a word: Humorous and snarky dialog, a magical urban fantasy setting, kick-ass characters, with just enough gore and just a dash of romance.
There are a lot of dead things in New York City, things you usually don’t see. Dead rats in the sewers. Dead roaches under floorboards. Dead squirrels in the park bushes. The dead are everywhere, and in New York you probably aren’t more than a few feet from a dead thing at any given moment. I just never expected that rule to hold true on a crowded sidewalk. Still, when you’re dealing with an entity with the power to raise and control the dead, you have to stay flexible.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dying is My Business, a worthy entry into the hallowed halls of urban fantasy. Kaufmann has written oodles of books and has even been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. This is the first book I’ve read of his, but I assure you I will be reading more of his work. This book was non-stop action from the beginning, full of magic, spells, showdowns between good and evil, and plenty of spilt blood. The characters were of the sarcastic variety, which is my very favorite kind of character (sarcasm being one of my specialties…), and although you can see a romance developing between two of the main characters, it doesn’t overpower the story. Best of all, this is the first in a series, which means we’ve got more of Kaufmann’s crazy world to look forward to.
Trent has a big problem. Every time he dies, he miraculously comes back to life with no signs of injury. This might seem like a good thing, but each time Trent comes back from the dead, the person nearest to him dies in his place. He also can’t remember his real name, where he came from, or whether or not he’s got a family. Trent has died and come back nine times when the story begins, and the deaths of all nine of those innocent people are weighing heavily on him. He’s also unfortunately fallen in with a crime boss named Underwood, a man who lives in a fallout shelter underneath an abandoned Shell gas station in Brooklyn (and I loved the fact that the “S” has fallen off the sign!). Underwood takes advantage of Trent’s unique talents by sending him on dangerous missions to steal items that he can sell on the black market.
Trent’s latest job is to locate and bring back an old box that is hidden somewhere in a carefully guarded warehouse. Underwood makes a deal with Trent: if he can successfully retrieve the box, Underwood will tell Trent everything he wants to know about his past. (How Underwood could possibly know these things is anybody’s guess.) But as you might expect, Trent’s mission does not go as planned, and he finds himself knee-deep in an unbelievable world filled with magic, werewolves, vampires and more. Trent must figure out which side he’s on before something evil takes over—and ultimately destroys—New York City.
Dying Is My Business is told from Trent’s point of view, and I have to say I loved being in his head. Trent is such a great character for many reasons: he has no idea who he is, so he’s got lots of motivation to find out; he is grounded in the real world, so when the paranormal starts to interfere with his life, he wants nothing to do with it; and he’s conflicted between getting the answers he craves, and doing the right thing. Getting those answers will hurt the people who are being kind to him, but doing the right thing could mean never learning the truth about who he really is.
Trent’s life is a mystery and he doesn’t have a family, but when he meets Bethany, Thornton, Isaac and Philip while looking for the box, he finally has a chance to make some real friends. I loved these characters, in particular Thornton, who just happens to be a werewolf and ends up in a very unfortunate situation near the beginning of the story. I also loved Philip, an enigmatic and bad-ass vampire who tries to be tough and scary, but ends up as one of those characters that you can’t help but love.
The snarky dialog between Bethany and Trent was really well done. Bethany has her own secrets that she doesn’t share with Trent, and in fact, the reader doesn’t find out about them either. You can tell the two of them like each other, but they just don’t know how to show it (or maybe they just don’t want to), and so their banter is pretty funny.
The world-building was unique, and I loved Kaufmann’s idea of magic that can corrupt if it gets inside you. I did feel at times that the world-building was a little too much, but it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment. The New York setting was perfect for this story, and I loved all the details that make you feel like you’re right there in the city, like the hidden Citadel inside Central Park, and an amazing secret hiding just below the city subway tunnels.
The best part of getting to the end of Dying is My Business is realizing that the series isn’t over. Who is Trent? Why won’t Philip take off his sunglasses? And what’s up with Bethany’s pointy ears? Kaufmann leaves just enough unanswered questions to peak the reader’s interest and make us anxious for the next book. Which I will be reading just as soon as I can.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
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