December 31st, 1946. A family of four is happily travelling to a New Year’s Eve party when their car is brutally attacked by a group of zombies. Marilyn, the mother, is bitten by one of these creatures and reluctantly left for dead on the street, as the rest of the family flees (not to worry, they will die a terrifying death after). This is only the start of a chilling few days for the small town of Rockwell, under siege by the undead, recently resuscitated from their tombs by a mysterious force. The undead need to feed on human or animal flesh to ‘survive’ and remain sentient, unable to stop their urge to devour anything that comes their way. You can only imagine the chaos this causes to such a small city: violent fights between humans and non-humans, fires and other disasters and a whole load of devastation to be found round every corner. Humanity’s last hope to end this lies in the hands of one of these undead, former detective Harry Reed and his unlikely companions, young Billy, and Marilyn herself (who has actually become a vampire following the attack). With very little time before the apocalypse spreads to the whole of America, our heroes will have to find out who’s behind it all… is it aliens? A mad scientist perhaps? Or is it the devil himself?! Spoiler alert: they will eventually get to the bottom of it, while having to resist their animalistic instincts, hide from humans who obviously are out to kill them and run from a cult leader relentlessly chasing them (and other horrifying, supernatural creatures of course).
You may have guessed this book is not for the faint-hearted… action-packed, brimming with very vivid descriptions especially when it comes to the bloodiest, cruellest parts – including an epic battle or two: author J. R. Wright is definitely not afraid to shock you, terrify you and even make your stomach turn sometimes! I loved the idea of an undead detective investigating other undead, and the fact that despite having lost his humanity through death Harry remains true to who he was in life, fighting the unnatural urges his current condition causes. You do feel for this unlikely hero and his companions and cheer them on as they face adversity. While the story shows immense creative ability in the way it unfolds, with twists and turns aplenty, all culminating in the final resolution and almost happy (or rather bittersweet) ending, the narration could definitely have done with a few more descriptions of the context and scenery surrounding our characters. For example, even though the story takes place in a distant past – 1946 – there are hardly any signs of this, and it could actually be happening anytime/anywhere, except for the hint that radio and black and white TV were the only mass media available at the time. While I do appreciate action-driven plots, Wright made it harder for the reader to picture the town of Rockwell, all we know is it is surrounded by woodland, it has a school and a city centre.
Detective Dead is undoubtedly a good book, but sadly lacks the polish that could make it great. Having said that, I must admit it was an interesting, uncomplicated read, made more seamless by Wright’s undisputed ability to write straightforward, entertaining fiction – and based on my experience with book reviews, I can guarantee this is harder that you think… So if it’s entertainment, lots of blood and a hint of horror you are after when choosing what to read, this is definitely the book for you!!