What I’m reading: Kelley Armstrong – Living with the Dead

Something from the Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy / Contemporary Fantasy / Whatever-you-want-to-call-it genre this time round. And to add to the confusion, I’m going to classify this under “Supernatural Fiction” (where I also will put any horror I might happen to be reading).

Kelley Armstrong, Living with the Dead

http://urbanfantasyland.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/living-with-the-dead-us-225.jpgKelley Armstrong is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me – not so much reading the novels itself (expect some Dresden Files novels to pop here soon, too; and I really want to catch up on the Anita Blake series, if only to find out if the later books are as bad as everyone says they are), but indulging myself and my lack of patienceĀ  by reading them in hard cover.

That they’re appearing in hardcover is indicative of their popularity, and Ms. Armstrong seems to be one of the most successful writers in the Supernatural Fiction genre (I wonder whether I should abbreviate this as sup-fi?). She is also my favourite in that genre.

While her books fall firmly into the light entertainment category (and as afar as I can tell, don’t aspire to be more), what raises Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series (of which this is the ninth installment) above her numerous competitors are mainly her skills in characterisation. Ms. Armstrong is very good at creating credible characters, and really excels at keeping them and their reactions believing even as she pushes them in the most extreme and over-the-top situations. I don’t think anybody else but her could have pulled off something as outrageous as a pregnant werewolf heroine (the protagonist in Broken) and actually gotten away with it.

Another peculiarity of this series is that it doesn’t follow a single character, but that the protagonists vary from novel to novel. This time, the featured supernatural is, like in the previous volume, half-demon Hope Adams, but mostly centers around her friend Robyn Petier, who – a first for the series – has no supernatural powers at all; the story revolving around her being drawn into a murder investigation as main suspect. Admittedly, not the most original of plot devices, but thanks to the believable characters and the well-invented world they inhabit, it still makes for a very entertaining read.

Living with the Dead also marks a new departure for Ms. Armstrong, in so far as this her first novel written, using multiple points of view and a third person narrative. She handles it quite deftly, as far as I could tell not making much of an effort to distinguish them by their language, but still bringing each one across as a noticeably distinct personality. The result is a fast-paced, highly entertaining supernatural mystery novel that in my opinion is one of the better installments in the series (and I’m not just saying this because my favourite Otherworld character, Eve from Haunted, has a brief cameo appearance). And it ends on a rather interesting note, namely a strong hint that the author might intend to build all of the episodic events of previous novels into an overarching narrative, which makes me even more curious for the next volume.

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