Robert Beveridge's Reviews > Dead of Night

Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry
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's review
Sep 05, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: amazon-vine, owned-and-still-own, finished
Read from August 29 to 31, 2011 — I own a copy

Jonathan Maberry, Dead of Night (St. Martin's Griffin, 2011)

Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

I can't remember how long Jonathan Maberry has been on my TBR list, but I do remember the first of his books I added was Ghost Road Blues (which I think I heard about from what is now DearReader). Somehow, though, I never got around to reading him until I picked up Rot and Ruin earlier this year. I was wowed by it, and so when Dead of Night popped up in the next Vine newsletter, I jumped on it with both feet. Wasn't quite as wowed by this one, a much more paint-by-numbers zombie novel, but Maberry's sense of pace and solid characterization carry it.

I'd normally be cagey about the big plot mechanism, but it's the first half of the first sentence in the jacket copy, so I'm assuming (despite the fact that Maberry obviously wanted it that way) it's not a spoiler: the zombie apocalypse begins when a bat[fill in your favorite expletive here]-crazy prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a mutant virus designed to keep him alive and conscious while his body rots away (think tetrodotoxin, except the body actually dies). When his body is unexpectedly claimed and shipped back to his hometown, he wakes up in the funeral home, and if you've read a zombie novel before, you know what happens here—lots of people get bit, infection spreads through bite, and before you know it, the zombies outnumber the humans.

Oh, one minor thing to mention: the novel is billed as a stand-alone, and as far as I can tell it pretty much is, but Pine Deep, the city where Maberry's first big trilogy is set, is kissin' cousins (when the local constabulary calls for backup, Pine Deep sends some), so if you haven't read those, might be worth it just for local color. Not that you don't want to anyway; I haven't, but based on the strength of the two Maberry novels I've read so far, I'll be kicking them way up the priority list. Why, you may find yourself asking, would he do that? Let me count the ways.

Actually, we'd be here all night, so I'll stick to the big bad plot device that really kinda blew me away here: if you've read a handful of zombie novels, you know they're zombie novels. Straight-up horror, maybe with a bit of comedy sprinkled here and there for some genre-bending. Well, folks, Jonathan Maberry has given us what is, as far as I know, the world's first zombie mystery. And that rules. Running parallel to the story of the cops trying to control the zombie outbreak is the story of an intrepid small-town journalist, a former ex-boyfriend of one of those cops, who's trying to figure out just what in tarnation is going on. And you know, I adore a good zombie novel as much as the next guy, but the mystery angle is actually better than the horror angle here. The characters we meet are so colorful and so much fun (yes, even in the middle of a zombie apocalypse!) that I now know if Jonathan Maberry suddenly decides to give up horror and start writing cozies for Poisoned Pen Press, I'm going to follow along like a happy puppydog. (I can just see it now: the Pine Deep Zombie Mysteries. With Recipes!) It's a great idea, it's very well executed, and it should do a fine job of bringing the “I don't read horror” mystery fans into the fold. (Note: this is not a cozy. Not even remotely.)

This is not to say it doesn't have a few problems, which is why my rating is slightly lower than the one I gave Rot and Ruin. A number of minor characters come off as cardboard, which is odd considering Maberry takes pains to flesh out a few other minors. There's the predictability factor, but these days, if you're a reviewer and you're dinging a zombie novel for predictability, you're out of touch with the current lit, so I'm not taking points off. (And I gotta say, while I saw the ending coming a mile away, I like the way Maberry set it up.) Some of the transitions between the survival-horror bits and the mystery bits seemed a little kludgy. And there's one eight-hundred-pound gorilla I would very much have to dance around in order to even hint at one of my biggest problems with the book, so I'll just say one of the main characters does a one-eighty in his or her outlook on something that really doesn't play, and leave you to find it. But I'm cancelling that out for the cameo made by an up-and-coming horror writer (and his eventual fate, which had me giggling like a schoolgirl; suffice to say Mr. Maberry will probably be turning up in a book by the other chap, whose name I assume would be a spoiler, with much the same result).

Short answer: read this. And then go pick up Rot and Ruin and read that, too. *** ½

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