Death’s big business — cutthroat, too. This is brought home to Pomp (alas, the circumstance!) Steven de Selby, a minor rung in the corp’s Brisbane ladder, when everything goes to Hell. Helping spirits pass over to the great fig tree under the world is a family talent, though there are those who have spurned the calling. Not Steven, who finds the task of Pomping somewhat cushy: it pays well, and the only effort he has to make is visiting the recently departed once in a while to make sure that unruly denizens of the netherworld — Stirrers — don’t pop into the recently vacated meat and take it for a test drive. But now the old firm is suffering a shake-up and the new broom is sweeping mighty clean indeed. Steven’s on the run, his life in tatters and under considerable threat. Through south-east Queensland he flees, with a gorgeous ghost watching his back (and other bits of his anatomy as well). Steven’s gonna have to step up and set things to right, or die in the attempt, and all of Australia — if not the world — is at stake.
Death Most Definite, the first of a series, is the debut novel (with an awesome, Angel-like cover) of Brisbane’s Trent Jamieson (a man whose prose I’ve long admired and who I have had occasion to share a drink with). Here, he’s wearing his heart on his sleeve. It’s an endearing feature of his prose — the man’s a short story genius — that the emotions run high and true, more often than not. The prose is on the money — fast and self-deprecating, with touches of beauty where appropriate, and insights into the morality of modern life (and a further insight into Trent’s CD collection — but hey, if any story was befitting of London Calling for its soundtrack, this is it).
Brisbane stands up quite well to its central role as sub-tropical battleground, its smallness of city and bigness of town adding to Steven’s woes. Just goes to show, you don’t need to be in Manhattan to have an enjoyable apocalypse. The supernatural elements, particularly the rituals, are suitably visceral, and should satisfy the eye of those looking for awards shortlists.
For the most part, the pace of this crime/horror thriller skips along nicely, smoothing over the couple of logic potholes that are adequately filled by the time we reach the denouement which sets up the next leg of the arc. Steven is a cool dude, a philosophical slacker and easy mark who rises to the occasion and provides pathos, a few chuckles and plenty of slick gory moments along the way.
This is an accomplished debut. Devilish fun!