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Dead Red by M. R. Forbes

Dead Red: Ghosts & Magic, Volume 2 - M.R. Forbes, Jeff Hays

Note: This is Book 2 in the series and can probably be read on it’s own as the story does remind readers of pertinent things that happened in Book 1 with enough detail to understand this book on its own.

This story happens perhaps 2 years after the events of Book 1, Dead of Night. Conor Night is still working as a Ghost doing the odd bit of thievery and the occasional mayhem and murder. He’s barely able to afford his illegal cancer meds. Technically, he’s dying. It isn’t pretty. But it does give him the abilities of a necromancer.

In Book 1, we learned a bit about the Game of Houses when Conor was hired by one to steal from another and ended up protecting a scion of one of these powerful Houses. Mostly, these Houses work in the background, their leaders being powerful magic users. The average public doesn’t know of their existence even though their lives are often shaped by the machinations of these powerful entities. Now, Conor is once again sucked back into this world that he tried so hard to walk away from. Conor is offered the job of stealing back the item that was stolen and restolen in Book 1, a large stone with magical properties. Taking on this job could mean pissing off not one, but two of the Houses.

On top of that, Conor is being hunted by a cult, the Necros. They are hell-bent on sending him to the afterlife and they say they were sent by Death itself. Conor doesn’t doubt this, not after the odd things he has seen and sensed with his magical dice and bone mask. Conor isn’t ready for the Other Side yet. Frankly, he is afraid of what awaits him there.

Once again, we have an excellent mix of action, mystery, reflection, and character development. Conor is joined by two friends he made in Book 1 – Amos and Prythi. There’s plenty of gun play, necromancer magic, and Prythi’s computer hacking skills. Amos is his usual charming self with colorful tales of his tom-cat ways and even more colorful language. He has his moments of solid friendship that make him lovable. My one quibble with this book is with Prythi; quite frankly, she sounds and acts too much like Dani from Book 1. Conor even makes note of that more than once. But even with that nod from the author via the main character, I would have preferred that either Dani was around or that Prythi had her own distinct characteristics.

Even with that one criticism, I still really enjoyed the hell out of this book. Conor has this past that he isn’t always proud of and he spends much of his remaining life trying to make up for it. It gets good and interesting when he has to make some tough, and sometimes questionable, calls to do so. He’s a fascinating character and the fact that he isn’t all superhero muscles and good looks just makes him that much more engaging.

Towards the end, there was this reveal that I was totally not expecting. In retrospect, it was completely obvious and I was pleased that the author kept me distracted with Necros, bone masks, and Amos’s tales of his ex-wife so that I didn’t see this big thing until it hit me between the eyes. And, yes, this big thing is pretty darn awesome. The ending definitely raises the stakes for Book 3, which I am eagerly awaiting.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  Jeff Hays set a new standard for awesome narration with Book 1 in this series and he does not disappoint with the narration of this book. His range for male and female characters is pretty incredible, having some of the most realistic female voices for a male narrator. Also, he goes the extra mile with making phone call conversations sound like half the conversation is taking place via phone and also the choir of voices that reside in the bone mask (rather spooky!). Add to that the voice of Death and the voice of Conor’s new employer for this escapade and we have an excellent vocal performance!