I will admit, I've read Anton Strout's journal long before I knew about the book. It's part of his avatar icon and the branding thing that went along with that. Naturally, while I was in the bookstore, I noticed it on the shelf (exactly one copy left) and slowed down. It was a relatively generic person on a title with too many reds for my tastes (yeah, I judge books based on the colors of their cover), but I was looking for it anyways.
"Hey, I've seen that!"
Dead to Me by Anton Strout.
And I picked it up. Standing at a hefty 356 pages, this is remarkably a very easy read. His grammar is simply and very easy to imagine, it flows nicely across the imagination and really keeps at a relatively rapid pack. The story is first person point of view which a single character; a common trend with most of the books I've read in urban fantasy. The voice of the story is, for a lack of better word, snarky. Delightfully so, actually. There is a nice level of sarcasm in the story and it really fits with the character. There is also the heart of gold aspect to the main character that makes me actually feel for him and his trials.
I like how Strout brings the story into fore, with the first scene showing how psychometry works. I already knew the idea of the power, something about a movie in the 80's actually, but I like the presentation and the drawbacks of the power. That scene lead into the plot very nicely. The book itself has kind of a police version of Harry Potter in places, less fantastic but that sense of wonderment and playfulness carries well through the entire story. He even put in a Professor Snape-like character which is probably my third favorite character in the book (after the cat and the main character). I even like the paladin/scoundrel parts of how he uses his power for personal gain. Likewise, I enjoyed the red tape and paperwork descriptions as very descriptive of the scenario the character is in--and feel sorry for him as he filed it. As I said, a good character you can really get to like but isn't a shining bastion of good. And that is true for a lot of characters, there are a lot of gray characters between the poles of good and evil. Better yet, it seems like the good and evil are practically bed buddies which mixes everything up nicely.
Naturally, there are some things I didn't really care for. I felt the Jane/Simon interaction was rushed and a bit forced. Her journal really irked me for some reason, it seemed more shallow than I really wanted to accept. She also bounces between her personas too fast without enough transition in the story. Hard nosed to fragile in rapid time. It was jarring.
There is also the issue of the antagonists turning a bit stupid at the end. But, the resolution of that was utterly satisfying and wrapped up the book very nicely. It also setup more conflict between the various players.
As in some stories, there are too many people "in the know." Some of them are less effective, a good sign, but the guy on the train just kind of bothered me. I'm not fond of the omniscient seer. On the other hand, the old lady was perfectly acceptable. Something about how Strout showed her personality near the end really made her likable.
My favorite quote of the book, taken out of context is: "...hoping I could at least use the rotting zombie as a flotation device." For that one quote, I'd recommend you read it. It is a fun, cheerful read. Entertaining, well described, and a playful urban fantasy.