Ace Books, mass market paperback
368 pages, New York New York it's a hell of a--HOLY GOD WHAT IS THAT THING?! MARSHA, RUN!
Currently in print
A disclaimer: I really had no intention of reading this book. Sure, I know Anton in that vague 'we're both authors, we're both on the Internet, he hasn't actually given me reason to want to cause him bodily harm' sort of a way, but if knowing someone guaranteed you'd read their books, we'd all be best-sellers by now. (I'm in favor of this, by the way. Just in case you wondered.) I looked at the cover, with its handsome, jut-jawed hero, I looked at the blurb, I went 'eh,' and I wandered off to read something with a higher body-count. Luckily for me, this is a stubborn little book, and it tracked me down, practically leaping into my hands in an effort to be read.
Dead To Me opens with sex. Hot, steamy, no-holds-barred sex. This is not an accurate barometer of the rest of the book, but it is a fascinating way of showing us, fast and dirty, exactly how Simon's powers impact the rest of his life. Psychometry is the talent of telling an object or person's past by touching it. As psychic talents go, it's one of the more commonly ignored, because it seems pretty useless unless you're planning to go on Antiques Roadshow. Simon isn't exactly an Antiques Roadshow kind of a guy, but he's definitely got the psychometry, and he's got all the problems that come with it.
So where does a semi-controlled psychic and former art thief find work in modern-day Manhattan? With the government, of course. Following in the brave footsteps of Bureau 13, Men In Black, and Ghostbusters, Simon works for a secret branch of the state government, helping to keep the man on the street from discovering exactly what it is that's keeping the rat population down.
It's a concept that's been done before, and it definitely has its familiar beats, as will anything in a sub-genre with a reasonably narrow definition. That said, Strout handles Simon and his situation beautifully, displaying something akin to the media-awareness and general snark of The Middleman (although sadly sans Wendy Watson). Seriously, I'm starting to feel like I'm mixing a cocktail here.
The Half-Dead Psychometric
1 oz Men In Black rum
2 oz Bureau 13 red tape and strawberry schnapps
2 oz pissed-off and pithy pineapple juice
2 oz oh god oh god we're all gonna die blackberry schnapps
8 oz better'n a sugar crash Red Bull
Shake thoroughly. Enjoy. Try not to vibrate through any walls, suffer any unpleasant accidents that I'll have to do the paperwork for, summon anything you can't put down, or get yourself eaten.
Dead To Me finds its feet fairly quickly, and never looks back. Most of the worldbuilding is done through quick throw-aways and rapid-fire exposition that could easily have been lifted, pacing-wise, from any one of a number of television series. It actually reads, in the good way, like a tie-in novel for a series that just doesn't happen to be airing in this particular dimension. (I want to attend the comic conventions in that world sometime.) The story is difficult to really explain without buckets of spoilers, which would get me hit, but I'll say this: it was a fun, fast read, one that was quick without being entirely fluffy, and it's earned its place on my shelf. I'm very glad I let myself be lured away from my 'safe' genres. Even if I can't quite imagine Simon striking the kind of pose he's in on the cover.
The sequel, Deader Still, has just recently come out. So hey, no wait required. This really does flow and flip like the B13 books when they were in their heyday, and I appreciate that.
I give Dead to Me three packs of Lifesavers and a license to operate in the San Francisco Bay Area. Use it wisely.