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:
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.
‘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