Friday, January 18, 2019

To Catch Her Death, The Grim Reality Series, Book 1, by Boone Brux (2013)

I’d like to think of myself as hopeful, optimistic. Will I ever meet that special someone? Probably not. Will I sell ten million copies of my debut novel? Let’s be reasonable. Still, will my investments rise above their double-digits? On second thought, perhaps I’m not as hopeful or optimistic as I think I am. And yet when it comes to art, I’m as eager and as enthusiastic as a teen with fervent hormones on his first date. In fact, I tend to frighten people, particularly non-readers.

Sure. It’s well established that I’m a literary snob. A man of letters, a prose elitist of sorts. However, not everything I read was written a hundred years ago. Not everything else I read is scholarly or highbrow. Indeed, gentle reader, despite my better judgement, I frequently enjoy shutting off my brain and reading a modern high-octane comedy of errors devoid of substance or profundity.

A few months ago, I subscribed to Bookperk, a promotional service from Harper Collins Publishers. The service sends me daily deals via email showcasing ebooks in all genres ranging in price from one to three bucks. To Catch Her Death was one such deal. Based on the cover and the blurb, I anticipated a mildly amusing romp through frivolity. At a mere ninety-nine cents, I figured I couldn’t go far wrong. In that sense, I got what I paid for.

The novel marks my first foray into urban fantasy, and, to its credit, the story provides an interesting concept told tongue-in-cheek. Lisa, an Alaskan thirty-five-year-old mother of three, is a sassy, overweight, unemployed widow whose husband died in a car accident only one year before this story begins. She brandishes sarcasm and wit to cope with all sorts of conflicts, from her mother to her children to her grief to her recent funk. Unfortunately, the humor is extraordinarily predicable, low hanging fruit quality, and hence rarely induces even a grin.  

Happily, the catalyst to the plot happens within the first few pages, when our protagonist witnesses a death and finds herself entangled with the deceased man’s soul. Shortly thereafter, she’s introduced to a secret organization known as GRS (Grim Reaper Services). Yes. Apparently, a secret organization of professionals exist who get paid to reap souls. Lo and behold, Lisa discovers she’s a grim reaper. Not the one and only Grim Reaper but rather one of many.

Obviously for such a premise, the reader must suspend disbelief. Which is fine. Recommended. Commendable even. However, this shouldn’t mean the story abandon its own internal logic. And this is where the eye rolling comes in. Despite my efforts, the analytical part of me kicked in and I couldn’t help wondering, among other things, who funds this organization.

Loved ones of the deceased don’t pay these employees to reap souls. Presumably the government is unaware of the organization’s existence as well, so it obviously doesn’t fund it either. And since income is the primary selling point for our protagonist Lisa who, heretofore unemployed and struggling financially, reluctantly accepts the job, the author should’ve provided some explanation as to how this organization, which works out of a brick and mortar, makes payroll, much less pays its electric and water bills. Hell, tell us a billionaire mystic funds it or that a secret society of millionaire spiritualists contributes proceeds from its share dividends or that the organization poses as a legit bureaucracy the government unwittingly subsidizes. I don’t know. Something.

Unfortunately, the premise, while promising, is a gimmick and nothing more. We’re expected to assume much for the sake of story. This would be fine if the story itself were done well. Unfortunately, the narrative is bland, predicable, and full of clich├ęs. The humor Lisa employs would be better served coming from a teen rather than a 35-year-old mother of three.

Some poor word choices and a stray homonym appear too, such as “… I was not willing to except [sic] more humiliation.” On the plus side, it cost me only a buck and it’s a quick read. But I won’t seek out the rest of this Grim Reality series. Too many other great books are out there I have yet to read. Three out of five stars. Rated PG-13.     

A Fish Dinner in Memison, by E.R. Eddison (1941)

Imagine watching sports primarily for the athleticism. The power, finesse, and agility of a few choice athletes doing all kinds of impre...