THOMAS USHER HAS A TERRIBLE GIFT.
Following a car crash in which his wife and daughter are killed, he can see the recently departed, and it’s not usually a pretty sight. When he is called to investigate the violent death of the daughter of a prominent local gangster, Usher’s world is torn apart once more. For the barriers between this world and the next are not as immutable as once he believed.
Pretty Little Dead Things is the debut novel from Angry Robot’s Gary McMahon and the first in a series of books featuring Thomas Usher, a sort of sleuth who can communicate with the dead. Thomas Usher doesn’t truly converse with the dead but rather he can sense their story and from this he is able to figure out their messages from the cryptic clues that they give him.
Thomas Usher is a tortured soul. He lost his wife and young daughter in a car crash and since waking up in the hospital, he finds himself able to sense and feel the dead around him. No matter how many ghosts he helps, he has never been able to find the ghosts of the two people he wants to see the most, his wife and daughter. For every ghost or person that he has failed, he tattoos their names to himself as a reminder of his guilt of letting them down.
In Pretty Little Dead Things, Usher begins with a simple job following the daughter of his employer. However things soon turn ugly and he finds himself caught in a complicated situation involving 3 dead girls who all have links back to his employer. At the same time, the niece of his once lover is missing and he fears there is a connection between these two cases.
This is a terrific thriller and horror story with descriptions of ghosts so vivid that makes you skin crawl. The scene where Kareena’s ghost is hanging on Usher’s landing is one of the best descriptions I’ve read of a ghost. McMahon also done a masterful job in portraying the loneliness that Usher feels for being stuck between two very different worlds while not belonging to either. Through these few hundred pages, I came to care about the protagonist, but just when things are finally going well for Usher, suddenly I see his hopes brutally dashed by a great evil.
Note: The following paragraph contains spoilers.
If I have to pick faults with this story, it would be the final part of this book. I feel that a coherent ending was sacrificed because too much emphasis was placed on introducing the big bad of the Thomas Usher series. I don’t think there were enough said about the motivations for the Royales’ to give up their daughter and why they made such a big scene if in the end they were the perpetrators? If the big bad had something to do with pushing them to do the things they did, it wasn’t made very clear in the book.
On the whole I enjoyed McMahon’s gritty style and his bleak depictions of Leeds and he did a great job of adding a supernatural element to a standard crime story. It is a compelling read and is one of the better horror thriller books that I’ve encountered. I will make sure to follow this author.