Dan Chambeaux, a private investigator, and his girlfriend Sheyenne, a med student, recently died. But thanks to a weird event now called “The Big Uneasy” which happened a decade ago, dead no longer means dead. A certain percentage of folks (usually homicides and suicides) return from the grave as some sort of “Unnatural.” That’s what happened to Dan and Sheyenne. Now he’s a zombie and she’s a ghost. That’s not stopping them from living life, but it is stopping them from touching each other.
Dan has returned to his job and he’s working on several cases involving Unnaturals (divorce, stolen painting, missing persons, etc.). In his spare time he tries to figure out who killed him and Sheyenne. His investigations bring him into contact with werewolves, wizards, witches, necromancers, ghouls, vampires, mummies, goblins, trolls, and various other weirdos.
The publisher’s blurb for Death Warmed Over promises something “fresh” and “funny” but the book doesn’t deliver. Fresh? Anderson’s world is too familiar and there are few surprises. It’s the typical cast of magical and mythical characters behaving the way we expect them to behave with just a couple of upsets to the usual balance (e.g., the wimpy vampire interior decorator). Characterization is dreadfully thin and I’m not even sure why Dan has to be dead — he doesn’t seem dead and Anderson doesn’t use his zombie status for much more than an opportunity to tell zombie jokes. Nearly every element of Death Warmed Over is something I’ve seen done better elsewhere. Death Warmed Over is not fresh. As its name implies, it feels more like microwaved leftovers.
Funny? A couple of the plotlines were slightly amusing — one involving a mummy who is trying to get himself emancipated from the museum who owns him and one about a couple of witches who are suing a publishing company for a mistake in a spellbook — but I laughed out loud only once (at a joke about interns). Most of the humor was trite and obvious — the kind that makes you roll your eyes and say “har har.” For example, on the first page of the book Dan Chambeaux (whose name has been morphed to “Shamble,” har har) tells us that now he’s a zombie, but he doesn’t want to leave his partner in the lurch. LURCH! Get it??? Nudge nudge wink wink. LURCH! Har har!
Phil Gigante narrates the audio version of Death Warmed Over. Sometimes Gigante goes over the top with his affected voices and that’s the case here. Gigante seems to be trying to help the book be funnier and it only makes it worse. His personality intrudes, meaning that I never forgot that he was part of this production.
Brilliance Audio sent me a copy of Death Warmed Over and the next two books in the series, Unnatural Acts and Hair Raising. I can’t recommend Death Warmed Over and I’m not sure if I’ll read the sequels.