I’ve recently been introduced to the work of Kelley Armstrong, author of two series having to do with, as she calls it, the Otherworld. By the Otherworld, Ms. Armstrong means the world of supernatural creatures here on Earth. By giving herself such a broad palette, Armstrong has access to the full panoply of not human and partly human creatures – and she makes good use of that resource.
In Living With the Dead, Armstrong reintroduces us to Hope Adams, a tabloid reporter/conflicted half-demon with a mild chaos addiction, and her boyfriend Karl the werewolf/jewel thief. The pair is in Los Angeles to help Hope’s mortal friend Robyn Peltier as she deals with the loss of her husband to a senseless act of violence. When Robyn winds up the main suspect in the murder of her boss, Hope and Karl are about the only ones on her side. Add in honest cop/necromancer, John Findley, a clairvoyant commune and a sorcerer’s cabal and you have a recipe for either disaster or high adventure, one.
There are many great things about Armstrong’s writing, but the one that intrigues me most is the level of complexity she creates in the relationships between characters. She is never schmaltzy or angst-ridden, but her characters are complex, multi-layered creatures with the ever-elusive quality of true relatability that is usually reserved for Chick-lit. Hey, she managed to combine romance, existential angst and a chase scene with a baseline mystery. And not only did she do it without confusing her reader, she did it well. It doesn’t get much better than that.
There is not a lot of poetic prose in Living With the Dead, but you are so busy racing after the plot and characters, that you don’t mind. In fact, you probably don’t notice. The prose is strong and grounds you firmly in every scene so that you can’t wait to turn the page and see what happens next.
I will say this to you Fantasy haters out there. Don’t read it, you won’t like it. If my blurb above on the basic plot had you rolling your eyes, stay far, far away. To all of you imaginative virtuosos, who know that in reality, EVERYTHING is possible, have at it. You won’t be disappointed.