Dead Mann Walking (Hessius Mann #1) by Stefan Petrucha
Publisher: AceRoc (Penguin Sept.2011)
Source: From publisher for review
Hessius Mann Series
After Hessius Mann was convicted of his wife’s murder, suppressed evidence came to light and the verdict was overturned-too bad he was already executed. But thanks to the miracles of modern science Hessius was brought back to life. Sort of.
Now that he’s joined the ranks of Fort Hammer’s pulse-challenged population, Hessius attempts to make a “living” as a private investigator. But when a missing persons case leads to a few zombies cut to pieces, Hessius starts thinking that someone’s giving him the run-around-and it’s not like he’s in any condition to make a quick getaway…
Dead Mann Walking is zombies, but with a twist. These zombies aren’t mindless shamblers, instead they are sentient beings. They’re also not the risen dead come to life as a result of some sort of virus or spell. Using good ol’ American ingenuity, a solution to the rapid rise of innocent death penalty victims was born, and upon exoneration, were brought back from the dead. The process soon became somewhat of a fad, with families bringing back loved ones left and right. However, folks soon realized that what came back wasn’t quite the same. We’re not talking Pet Cemetery creeping evil here, but some people, upon coming back, did seem to lose some of their higher thinking ability, and the possibility of going feral always lingers. The undead now gather in enclaves, trying to keep to themselves and also staying hidden from the hakkers, groups that take pleasure in torturing and killing the chak (zombies.)
Hessius Mann, PI and ex-cop, is one such individual, having been exonerated after being convicted and put to death for the murder of his wife. Unfortunately, his memory isn’t what it used to be, and he relies on an LB (liveblood) assistant, Misty, to keep his daily affairs in order. The constant threat of rot and the near constant worry of going feral don’t make life easy, but when a client shows up and offers a wad of cash to find a missing person, Mann just can’t say no. Mann and his client travels into the Bedlands, an old mattress factory which now houses a large group of chaks. The man the client is looking for is rumored to be there, but finding the missing man is just one tiny part of this story. A serial killer is at work, decapitating chaks and keeping the heads as trophies, and the killer may have more to do with the case then Mann ever could have suspected. When a possible connection to his wife’s murder comes to light, Mann will have to dig very deep to find the truth, and what he finds may destroy everything he holds dear.
I loved this take on the zombie genre! The author has created a cast of characters that was great fun to get to know, and Hessius Mann is up there in my top ten list of favorite PIs, zombie or not. In Dead Mann Walking, you’ll explore a world where humans and chaks live very uneasily together, and chaks are treated like second class citizens. There’s definitely some commentary here on how we treat certain groups, using zombies as a metaphor, but nothing heavy handed, and it adds a humanity to the genre that is sometimes hard to find. Urban fantasy, horror, and noir fans will find a lot to love about Dead Mann Walking, and Mann’s vulnerability and his desire to find out the truth, drives this unusual and fascinating novel. This is the first book that I’ve read by Stefan Petrucha, and I love his writing style, his wit, and his uncanny ability for clever word play. Don’t miss Dead Mann Walking, a wonderful start to a series that will certainly be on my auto buy!