Dead Man's Song
by Jonathan Maberry
Pinnacle Books (2007)
After almost a year, I've returned to Pine Deep. Last year, I read and reviewed Jonathan Maberry's debut novel, Ghost Road Blues, and subsequently hunted down the other two books in the trilogy. But, like too many books I've horded, they've collected dust for months upon months while I read other stuff (As one of my New Year's reading resolutions, I want to spend 2011 finishing up the trilogies and series I have yet to finish, and until I do try to keep new reads limited to stand alone novels). So, here we go with the second book in the trilogy, Dead Man's Song.
The story picks up almost immediately after the climactic showdown between our hero, Crow, and a remorseless killer named Ruger. Crow successfully killed Crow, but not without taking one serious ass-kicking to wind up in the hospital along with his new fiance, Val, and her sister, Connie, and Connie's husband, Mark. Pine Deep is reeling, heading into October, as several local townsfolk are dead, including Val's father at the hands of Ruger.
But, the evil that has returned to Pine Deep is still busy in its mission to create an unholy army of minions to do its bidding, as Halloween nears.
On the other side of the coin, the good guys who are still standing are left to deal with the aftermath. Crow and Val are more committed to each other than ever, but both are scarred emotionally, not just physically. Though Mark and Connie are absolutely decimated by what they went through, and their marriage is strained to a degree that threatens to tear them apart. Then, there's the mayor and Crow's best friend, Terry Wolfe, as he continues to see his dead sister warning him that if he doesn't kill himself he'll wind up like Ubel Griswold. And an abused young boy, Mike, is having nightmares of his impending death, and still has to contend with his dispicable stepfather, Vic Wingate, who is secretly serving Griswold.
Dead Man's Song isn't nearly as action-packed as the first book, focusing more on the regrouping of both sides, building towards another showdown. There's a tug-of-war occuring on several fronts, and new characters take on more prominent roles, including a zealous reporter looking for the secrets behind what happened, and Dr. Weinstock as he suspects the strange elements to the dead and injured are more than meets the eye.
I think this book falls into the trap that seems to happen to a lot of second books in trilogies, and by that I mean it seems to serve primarily as a prelude to the third and final book. A sizable chuck of the first half of the book serves as a recap and re-immersion in the world created in the first book, so much so that a reader could presumably not require reading the first book to get the gist of all that is going on. For me, however, I found it dragged early and it wasn't until a hundred or so pages had passed before I felt like I was truly diving into the second book.
The slow burn through this book is rewarding enough to keep me engaged and looking forward the final book, Bad Moon Rising. And the character development rings true in a lot of cases, especially with the survivors from the first book. There are moments where the dialogue drags and feels too artificial for my tastes, but those moments are thankfully sporadic and do serve to provide key bits of information. I liked the book, but slogging scenes through the first half of the book prevented me from loving it like I did the first book. I've got my fingers crossed on the third.