Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Review - Less Than Dead

A clever, suspenseful tale that will keep even the best bloodhound following his tail a few times.

This week's feature book for the CFBA Tour is Less Than Dead by Tim Downs.

Tim Downs is know for his "Bug Man" novels, featuring Nick Polchak as a forensic entomologist (that's a guy who studies the insects that are found with dead bodies, very CSI-ish). When a field owned by a U.S. Senator who is a candidate for president is excavated and a couple of old bodies are found, the FBI has an explosive situation on their hands. Agent Nathan Donovan, famous since he stopped the "Plague Maker" in New York City, is sent to oversee the investigation. He calls Nick to the small Virginia town of Endor to help him identify how long the bodies have been there.

After a mysterious discovery, Nick calls for a cadaver dog to be brought in to search for other possible graves. When the purebred FBI dog fails, he follows up on the rumor of the "Witch of Endor", a woman who lives alone and supposedly talks to animals, to see if her mongrel can aid in the investigation.

Unfortunately, there are people who want buried secrets to stay buried, and soon Nick is trying to figure out these secrets before he becomes one himself.

I mentioned Less Than Dead a couple of weeks ago in my post about the benefit of blog tours. I had read Tim Down's Plague Maker a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, but had not gotten around to reading any more of his work. When I saw Less Than Dead on the blog tour list for October, I knew it would be the only book I'd request this month.

I'm so glad I did.

I've read a lot of books this year, and I keep finding books that I think, "Wow, this is the best book so far this year." Well, Less Than Dead has left them all behind. I really enjoyed Plague Maker but Less is from top to bottom a tightly woven suspense, keeping my head twisting around until I about got whiplash. There were a few times that he had me totally thrown by what he was doing - in a good way! The surprises were great and kept me on my toes and invested in the stellar plot. I thought that having a politically-themed book was a little disingenuous during an election year, but this book is not thinly written like other election-related books I've read.

Nick Polchak is a great character, fully comfortable in his own awkward skin. The bonus is that every other character stands on their own as well, with none of them acting as "filling". It was great to have Nathan Donovan from Plague Maker make an appearance here, as Nick did in that book. Very good touch, and it even gives a little epilogue to Plague that I appreciated greatly.

The other thing that stands out is the humor of the book. Many books have a sarcastic hero, but Nick carries it off very well with his idiosyncrasies. I was laughing out loud at many spots in the book, and it added to the richness of the book every time.

I'll have a "best of" list at the end of the year, and so far, against very stiff competition, Less Than Dead is the leader of the pack. Don't miss this book if you enjoy suspense, clever writing, or forensics-type shows/books. Actually, just don't miss it!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Less Than Dead, go HERE.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a fun read. But I confess...when I saw "Endor" I thought "Forest Moon of" rather than "Witch of."

    Were those bodies of short and furry stature?