Rating (out of 5): 3 stars
J.N. Duncan brings two people who have sincerely given up on real happiness together in his debut Deadworld. Both FBI agent Jackie and paranormal investigator Nick believe they are past redemption. They don’t deserve love or happiness or even a glorious ending.
Nick has just plain given up. He’s spent decades being tormented by another vampire who makes him relive the murders of his family members. And he’s never been able to catch this guy. This time, though, is the final go-round, and his nemesis will surely kill him when it’s over. He’s resigned to that death. Unfortunately, the FBI is now involved and their interference will only lead to more dead bodies.
Jackie and her partner and BFF Laurel are doing their best to stop one heartbreaking murder after another. Laurel is a medium and can tell their is something otherworldly at play. Quickly it’s clear they’ll need to team up with Nick to help stop the big bad. In the meantime, Laurel has to deal with Jackie’s drinking and bar fights. She helps her out and gets her home time and again. Finally putting her foot down and telling her she needs to let other people in.
Both our hero and heroine in Deadworld have deep issues, each with a friend nearby keeping them from going too far over the line. And that may be what makes it harder to welcome these two — mostly Jackie. Those characters with big flaws challenge readers. You know I adored Chess Putnam in Stacia Kane’s Downside series. And it worked there because Chess was never hurting anyone but herself with drug use. When it starts to affect others, she has to think about things a bit more. With Deadworld, we come in seeing Jackie’s best friend agonize over her friend’s drinking, promiscuity and fighting. It takes more work to care about Jackie for this reason. You’ll get there, but it takes time to get inside Jackie’s mind enough to like her.
Jackie is a fighter. Outside she’s a very strong woman and quite the instigator. And that’s hard not to appreciate. What’s especially nice is the way her and Nick’s insecurities play off one another to help them grow. Will they suddenly be “fixed” by the end of the novel? No, but when they are together they both are stronger and you can’t help but back them.
The plot is dark and bloody. You’ll be surprised by some of the twists in Deadworld, though some of the action moves slower in terms of prose than I’d like, the end result is a good storyline.
I want to give Deadworld a higher rating, because I love what Duncan is trying to do. He doesn’t quite get there in Deadworld, but it’s a first novel in a series, and my gut says he may get there in the sequel The Vengeful Dead. Plus, the thought he puts into character development shows and I love that.
Sexual content: Sex scene that turns sour (expect traumatic flashback), references to rape