Normally, I’m a sucker for a supernatural detective story, so figured this life-after-death investigation, in which a dead policeman must find his own murderer, would be straight up my street. It certainly started in five-star style, with the confused Detective Joe Lazarus (what else could he have been called, eh?) being confronted by his own corpse and his wise-cracking, gum-chewing street-smart guide to the afterlife, the spunky Daisy-May.
But then it bogged down in a fog of confusion and purgatorial politics. The author decided that the recently dead shouldn’t remember much of their lives, so Joe continually struggles to recall his previous existence. It’s like the film, Memento, which only really works because of the amnesiac gimmick that obscures a really not entirely surprising plot twist.
So by the midway mark, I was seriously considering the DNF and one-star solution to what had become an unrewarding experience. However, there was just enough mystery to keep me clinging on to the end…
…and I was glad that I did, because there were a couple of entirely unexpected developments which rewarded my persistence. But overall this is an inconsistent experience. The central character is hard to engage with. The gritty real-world scenario of county lines drug-dealing fits uncomfortably with the fantastical dreamworld duchy, and neither gels well with the horror-movie stalker-slasher who drags delinquents off to a fate genuinely worse than death.
The Dying Squad attempts to bridge several scenarios but succeeds at none of them especially well. If there is a follow-up, I’ll give it a swerve.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox is available at Amazon
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