Nothing can keep P.I. Dan Chambeaux from his work, not even death itself. In author Kevin J. Anderson’s humorous horror-themed novel “Death Warmed Over,” the zombie private investigator rises from his grave to continue business as usual; well, the closest to usual that his business gets. Along with his partner, attorney Robin Deyer, Chambeaux, aka Shamble, serves citizens of paranormal New Orleans, recently redubbed The Big Uneasy. Their agency Chambeaux and Deyer provides much-needed legal and investigatory services for supernatural beings in the city’s Unnatural Quarter.
Surprisingly, Chambeaux and Deyer have more than enough cases to keep them busy. Shamble’s own untimely murder and the poisoning of his girlfriend-turned-ghost Sheyenne, are just two of the ones he’s tackling. His docket also includes a vampire harassed by humans, a wealthy werewolf’s messy divorce, a witch harmed by a spell book’s typo, a ghost locked in a creative property dispute with his heirs, and an unwanted relative haunting his family. Handling them all won’t be easy, because as Shamble says, “The cases don’t solve themselves.”
The funniest and most fascinating part of Anderson’s tale, is the complexity of his clients’ legal issues. Concrete concepts such as life, death, marriage, and property have become a lot less black and white now that ghosts, zombies, mummies, witches, and werewolves occupy the land of the living. As a result, Chambeaux and Deyer have to help their clients navigate difficult, often silly situations to forge legal precedents, which ensure equal rights for everyone. Who knew the afterlife could be so hilariously complicated?
Similar to film noir and pulp detective literature, the novel’s events are recounted in the first-person from Shamble’s perspective. This style flows well for the most part, but it does grow a bit tiresome because Shamble has a tendency to repeat himself when describing his appearance, habits, backstory, and romantic past with Sheyenne. Additionally, the type of humor that Anderson uses has difficulty finding the right audience. It’s too old for teens, although not quite mature enough for regular adults. Jokes are occasionally lewd and involve pop culture references to various movies and television shows in the horror genre, yet they don’t seem efficiently targeted toward a specific group of readers.
Another thing that “Death Warmed Over” struggles with in the beginning, is connecting all Shamble’s smaller cases in a meaningful way. For a portion of the story, Shamble’s work feels very procedural, and better suited to television’s episodic nature. Also, Anderson doesn’t do a great job of explaining how all of these supernatural beings started showing up in the first place. However, as he progresses, Anderson ties everything together effectively, so that he gives you a sense of closure, while still leaving room for future novels with this character.
Speaking of future novels, Anderson has the opportunity to build a beloved series with his next Dan Chambeaux adventure, but whether he will or not, still remains to be seen. To do that he’ll have to refine his approach to the character’s narration, hone his humor toward a more particular audience, and start connecting Chambeaux’s minor cases to the major plot earlier.