Monday, 3 November 2008

‘Living with the Dead’ – Kelley Armstrong (Orbit Books)


Kelley Armstrong’s books are swiftly becoming the book equivalent of eating my favourite chocolate bar (which is ‘Galaxy’ by the way, just in case you were wondering...), there are no surprises but both are good fun to get into :o) Is it comfort reading? I suppose it is but there’s nothing wrong with that in moderation...
Anyway, I’ve had a rough few days just recently and was after something that I knew I’d enjoy but wouldn’t be too taxing. ‘Living with the Dead’ had come through the door in the last few days so I figured that was the book for me! And, despite a couple of flaws, ‘Living with the Dead’ was just the book I was after...

It hasn’t been all that long since Robyn Peltier’s husband was shot dead, in a case of mistaken identity, and relocating to Los Angeles seems like the best way to try and make a fresh start. Robyn couldn’t be more wrong as she suddenly becomes the prime suspect in not only her boss’ murder but also that of two policemen...
Robyn has unwittingly stepped into a supernatural turf war where both sides would be happy to see her take a fall. Luckily for her though (even more so seeing as she doesn’t realise this) Robyn’s best friend is a half demon who happens to be going out with a werewolf...

Without giving too much away, the focus is on Robyn but it’s actually another character that steals the book title and looks like he is being set up to appear in future books. While I liked the approach that Armstrong took here I found myself having an issue with it straight away.
‘Living with the Dead’ may ultimately be about this character but there are three other characters who pretty much steal the show and make the book all about them (which leads me to ask, who is this book all about?) All of the big exciting stuff happens to Robyn while the fact that Hope and Karl have taken centre stage in previous books elevates their presence to the extent where they overshadow others. I guess this must be a common problem when you are writing a book with multiple points of view (which is what this book is)...
The upshot of this, for me, was that I didn’t really get to know the character whom I was most interested in. I didn’t have a lot of time to connect with him and this resulted in me feeling pretty ambivalent towards him as a whole. I will however be interested in seeing how his character develops if we see him in future books.

This niggle was balanced out by the attention that’s paid to other characters and their relationships. We get to see Robyn take a significant step along her grieving process and we also get to see events influence how Hope and Karl’s relationship play out (I’ll admit to some bias here as they are both favourites of mine).

The story itself isn’t too different from Armstrong’s last couple of books. Supernatural gangs face off against each other and it’s a question of how the people caught in the middle will survive... Where Armstrong avoids becoming repetitive though is through the depth and vitality of the world she has built up throughout her series. There is always something going on and Armstrong draws her world so well that it almost felt, to me, that the story could be playing out in real life.
Also, Armstrong isn’t afraid to throw lots of people and groups into the mix and the resulting interactions lead to plenty of plot twists that constantly keep things fresh and interesting. There are plenty of ‘near misses’ (in every sense) and for every time I found myself breathing a sigh of relief there were also times when I found myself saying, “Don’t run! They want to help you...”
The twist right at the end is worth sticking around for as well. How much of this could have been avoided if people had just spoken to one another...?

It may be comfort reading but it’s damn good fun comfort reading nonetheless. ‘Living with the Dead’ is another fine read from Kelley Armstrong and I reckon fans will be pleased with what’s inside this book...

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

8 comments:

Hagelrat said...

I love Kelley Armstrong and I want this book!!!

Darren Turpin said...

Hi Hagelrat - The Orbit UK edition is out today (hardback, £14.99) and I can offer you a free extract to be going on with:

www.orbitbooks.net/living-with-the-dead

Hagelrat said...

Thanks, got it, loved it, reviewed it. Waiting for the next one. :)

wendy said...

I read Bitten, Stolen and Broken ages ago. I thought they were okay. Maybe I ought to give her newer stuff a go.

Question though. Does her backlist have to be read in order to read the lastest couple of novels as far as characters are concerned? Thanks for any advice :o)

Graeme Flory said...

Hi Wendy,

I don't think you have to read all the backlist, I haven't and I've still got a lot out of the last few of her books.
I guess it could only help if you did though ;o)

Jenny said...

I absolutely LOVE kelley armstrong I really do. I however am really struggling to find the central charactors of this book. I don't know what to do. Continue reading or take a break and come back to it. Its really dissapointing.Not sure what to do. Any suggestions from anyone

Jenny said...

you most Certainly don't have to read the back list. Its one fo the amazing things about these books. They tend to stand alone and be really good all on there lonesome. However. There are elements that if you do read the backlist you pick up much faster which in turn makes it a better read. My suggestion? Do what you want. Read them in any order you want they are all really good.

Jenny said...

right I just finished this book yesterday and all I can say is that this book was good but it was really odd. The charactors aare just a bit odd and the story was just odd. all I can say this book is ODD ODD ODD