Book Review

Talking With the Dead by Shiloh Walker

C-

Title: Talking With the Dead
Author: Shiloh Walker
Publication Info: Samhain Publishing November 2006
ISBN: B000R93DC6
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Book Cover This was a free Kindle download from Sam Hain (distant cousin to Sam Adams) and since it was three dots long (the length of a book on the Kindle is depicted by a series of dots beneath the title in the contents section of the device) I figured it would be a quick read for me.

Let me say outright: there were a lot things that frustrated me about this story, but Shiloh Walker’s writing is not one of them. Despite the elements that I’ll get to in a moment, I’ll be looking for Walker’s books in the future because her writing is SOLID. The narrative voice was unique and inviting, and often underscored the subtle language differences between the hero (a Southern man) and the heroine (an Indiana sheriff). The plot was tight, with growing and ebbing tension.

Even in the confines of a novella, the hero was nuanced and sympathetic. Michael O’Rourke can hear the dead, see the dead, and generally gets pestered by the dead who aren’t pleased that they’re dead because they wouldn’t be if not for whatever murdering fucknut who killed them. O’Roarke is nearly burnt out entirely, and he began his adult life with most of his innocence and humor cut off by a neglectful, abusive mother. He was saved only by the love and watchful care of his brother. The heroine, Daisy Crandall, is a small town Indiana sheriff plagued by a serial killer who kidnaps women, rapes them repeatedly, chokes and revives them, and then cuts them all over so they exsanguinate slowly, too weak to get help after their dying bodies are dumped in a field. Sick mother fucker.

O’Rourke rolls into town because he’s guided by the sense of anguish and terror that cloaks the town limits, and finds himself assisting both Daisy and the latest victim in the quest for the killer. O’Rourke’s past is revealed in the initial chapter, so he’s already wrenchingly sympathetic. Daisy, on the other hand, must confront the limitations of her own investigation and figure out why this O’Rourke guy is so damn creepy.

Walker has serious skillz with the dramatic tension, the descriptions, the pacing, the mood and the narration, and as a character O’Rourke is marvelously written. I particularly adored the dialogue between O’Rourke and his brother – familial banter with an extraordinary subtext, and humor balanced with pain. Those were definitely my favorite scenes.

There’s very little “meh” in this novella for me – I either adored parts or was screeching about others. The good, I’ve outlined. I don’t know if I can underscore how good I found the good parts, particularly Walker’s writing. It’s damn good. So what made me screech?

There’s a serial killer in a small town in Indiana, and not once does Daisy have to deal with a panicked town? Why aren’t more people flipping out?

The villain was plenty scary but once he’s revealed in full, he becomes less so

to the point where he’s too easily vanquished.

There was no explanation of who he was or how he fit into the community – or how he managed to be an uncaught yet prolific serial killer in a small town in the first place.

But the two most jarring elements were the unresolved plot points, and the sexuality between the protagonists. The romance between protagonists was flat, and it went from “Hey you’re cute” and “You have a nice ass” with a soupçon of “Gee your hair smells terrific” to serious bonerating in .02 seconds. Plus, since that rapid acceleration of bonerating status happens AFTER some violent discussion of rape and the murder victims, it was hard for me to separate the two because the protagonists’ attraction was so flimsy and based on so little time together that it read like satiation of lust instead of true emotional connection, even the beginnings of one. Plus, the subtext of the seizing sexual gestures within their first encounter was discomfiting when contrasted the villain in the preceding chapters.

Further, the resolution of O’Roarke’s brother’s story is left out, despite several specific statements as to what end his brother is seeking. O’Roarke’s brother is one of the factors that enables the reader to understand the nobility and strength of his character; to see his brother cheated of his own resolution in the end of the story was terribly unsatisfying. Unless there’s a second book about him, I am really, truly bummed that he didn’t have his own ending. The lack of resolution to that particular plot point, since it supercedes all the other resolutions that Michael must seek on behalf of others every day of his extraordinary life, is disappointing and leaves a great void in my enjoyment of the novella.

But even despite those dangling threads and my questions of the scope of the villainy, Shiloh Walker has some badass writing chops. Her writing is sharp, descriptive, and intelligent, and I was instantly dragged into her story. That’s quite a talent, considering how short novellas are. The fact that I missed the ending to the journeys of ancillary characters is also a testament to Walker’s talent, because I gave a hell of a crap about secondary characters, and missed seeing them reach a satisfactory ending. As I said, I’m definitely keeping my eye out for more, as I am ever a fan of unique and fascinating character collections.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Well, damn… I’m totally and completely thrilled.  :)

    Sorry some aspects of it didn’t work for you, but man, I’m so completely thrilled that the writing itself wasn’t one of them.  I’m going to frame this C and hang it over my desk. 

    Thanks for the review!

  2. 2

    I couldn’t agree more! I loved getting this book for free. I gave it a bit of a higher rating and I haven’t posted it on my blog yet, but it was a fabulous read.

    Loved it.

  3. 3
    Brandi says:

    Shiloh Walker is the name of a character from a Lisa G. Brown romance novel called Billy Bob Walker Got Married. It is my favorite romance novel. Any chance your using a pseudonym?

  4. 4

    Shiloh Walker is the name of a character from a Lisa G. Brown romance novel called Billy Bob Walker Got Married. It is my favorite romance novel. Any chance your using a pseudonym?

    Man, I read that book!  I loved it, but only read it the once.  Was a library title.  Forgot that heroine’s name was Shiloh.

    But to answer the question, yep, it’s a pseudonym.  I do love the Shiloh part-it’s different but not in screaming purple neon different.  However, in hindsight, I might have chosen a last name that DIDN’T start with a W.  Many, many, MANY bookstores have Ws down on the bottom.  Hindsight-20/20.

  5. 5
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    This sounds like a great read even taking into account the drawbacks of the short format.  I will definitely keep an eye out for more books by this author.

  6. 6
    azteclady says:

    I love Shiloh’s writing, even in those cases where other issues get in the way, and I hate that I have no kindle to my name. No kindle, no free reads *sigh*

    :wink:

  7. 7
    Marcy Arbitman says:

    I have purchased many of Shi Walker’s books to read on my eBookwise. Unfortunately, the Kindle is both too expensive and you can only buy books from amazon.com.

  8. 8
    amy lane says:

    Hot damn, Shiloh—you’re right—that was one well-earned ‘C’:-)  Congratulations!

  9. 9
    Barbara says:

    Actually, Marcy, you can convert other e books to a Kindle format using Mobipocket. I use it all the time when I buy e books from other places. As for the Kindle inself, it is expensive, but well worth it to me. I wish I had got the chance to download Shiloh’s book!

  10. 10
    Corrine says:

    I haven’t read this particular title, but I have to say that if anyone is looking for a good story that showcases Shiloh Walker’s writing it’s Her Best Friend’s Lover. I bought the ebook and then spent all night reading it on my laptop (no ereader, sad face)—- after spending ten hours already staring at a computer at work. I was pretty much crosseyed the next day, but damn, it was worth it.

  11. 11
    Ann-Kat says:

    I don’t know whether to be upset or excited that I won’t be able to get this title because, surely, those points which caused copious amounts of screeching will do the same to me, but I’m certainly intrigued. I’ll probably pick up another Shiloh Walker title just so I can get a taste of her style.

  12. 12
    Marcy Arbitman says:

    Thanks Barbara. I didn’t know that you can transfer books to be used on the Kindle.

    I loved Her Best Friend’s Lover, but for those who are just starting to read Shi’s ebooks, I highly recommend The Hunters series. Start with Declan and Torie. I have read/own them all.

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