Title: Dead Man Stalking
Series: Blood & Bone #1
Author: T.A. Moore
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Genre(s): urban fantasy, vampires, cult, mystery
Page Count: 260
Reviewed by: Larissa
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Blurb: Agent Luke Bennett proved that humans could rise just as high in the ranks as their vampire colleagues—until a kidnapper held him captive for a year and turned him without his consent.
Now he’s Took: a reluctant monster afraid to bite anyone, broke, and about to be discharged from his elite BITERs unit.
When an old colleague suggests he consult on a BITERs case, Took has little to lose. The case is open and shut… but nothing is ever that easy. As he digs deeper, he discovers a lot more than one cold case is at stake, and if he wants to solve this one, he’ll need the help of the BITERs team. Even if that brings his old commander, Madoc, back into his life.
Dead Man Stalking is the first book in a new series called Blood and Bone by T.A. Moore. It’s a dark and gritty urban fantasy story where vampires rule the earth as much as humans do and with characters that are just as messy as the story itself.
Going into this story, I expected the mystery of Luke’s/Took’s kidnapping and the mystery of the case he’s consulting on. However, it was more disjointed with a story jumping all over the place and with a lot of loose threads.
The story: Dead Man Stalking is about Luke, a former human who was mysteriously kidnapped and held for a year. Now he’s a paranoid vampire who is caught between who he was on a prestigious team and who is now and the mystery of his kidnapping. At the same time there is a case he consults on: to see if his team made a mistake and my have put the wrong kid away. Enter Madoc.
The story has a lot of potential but fell short in its execution. The first half is mostly setting the story up and introducing the reader to Took and Luke and the case, but slow going. It jumps between flashes from both Took’s kidnapping and Madoc’s past and the current case, without really going anywhere. When it suddenly does, the ending is wrapped up too quick, without really supporting the plot and leaving a lot of loose threads.
For example, one of the team was badly hurt. Well killed technically, but being a vampire, that’s not too bad. However it’s never mentioned again. The same as with the lead suspect. What happened to him as there were all these treats as to what could happen.
Then there was the distrust between Took and Madoc that suddenly jumps straights to love. Speaking of, please please please don’t use blood as lube. Brrr. Darkly erotic, maybe, but effective? Hell no. Then again, the characters are technically dead…
The characters: the characters are very limited. There’s Madoc and Took and while we know a little bit more about them then the rest of the characters, the are sorely underdeveloped. There is a lot of telling, but not experiencing. Took calls himself broken, but we never really witness that in the story. He’s paranoid due to what happened to him and, for example, never sleeps in the same place. And yet we never see that in the story. The same goes for Madoc, though of all the characters, he was a little more worked out.
There is supposedly a whole team, but we hardly see them. The camaraderie between them is implied, but never witnessed. They spend more time being crushed under Madoc’s boot than friendship or at the very least teammates. They are written as if the reader is long familiar with them, but yet we don’t know them nor get to know them.
The writing: Dead Man Stalking was hard to read. At times I wondered if I missed something vital and that was a feeling that kept with me throughout the story. The plot is jumpy at times, sometimes midthought and sometimes it’s missing little details to understand a scene. In that regard it was a badly edited story, something I haven’t seen for a while from Dreamspinners.
The technical writing itself was essentially not bad, but at times trying too hard to fit the dark gritty world it’s set in. It made the writing stilted at times. The flashes from the past that come mid thought, a sudden action out of nowhere and a lot of things left unexplained. As said before, it makes the story hard to read.
The world the author has created is complicated. It’s not just vampires and humans, but the vampires have a religious origins and religion is a theme throughout the story with hunters and sects and cults. While it’s something I appreciated, it doesn’t work if they are not integrated into the story. Like with the characters and the plot, the worldbuilding was not fully worked out.
Conclusion: the set-up of Dead Man Stalking has a lot of potential, but it never really gets off the ground. It has a disjointed story with a sudden ending and characters that are underdeveloped and a worldbuilding that’s too vague. While I liked the idea of the story, I never really got into it.