Matt Richter used to be a cop in the good old USA. One day he went through a strange portal and ended up in Nekropolis. Now he’s dead, but the sleuthing hasn’t stopped. When a beautiful young woman asks for his help in finding a stolen artefact, Matt just can’t say no. Of course, it’s not because she is beautiful and her powerful father might just be able to stave off his impending deterioration, it’s just because it is the right thing to do. Of course. The hunt takes them across the realms of Nekropolis, facing old enemies and making new ones, but the thief always seems to be one step ahead. As they discover the motive behind the theft, they suddenly realise it isn’t just Matt’s end that might be imminent.
Tim Waggoner’s ‘Nekropolis’is a vast city teeming with otherworldly people and events. The depth of thought that has gone into the creation of this place is amazing. There is a complete back story about how the city was created, full mythology around the leaders and different races and a whole host of incredible characters. One of the things that really gets me hooked on a book is when the world is fully immersive and Waggoner has succeeded superbly with ‘Nekropolis’. However, all these details are integrated into the plot and it never feels like you are being force fed information just for the sake of it.
A good setting alone doesn’t make a great book and there must also be a cast of characters that draw you in. Matt Richter, zombie P.I. and former US policeman is a solid central character and I found myself almost immediately curious about him. He is clearly modelled on the noir detective as might be found in books like Raymond Chandler’s ‘Big Sleep’, but the zombie twist and the unique setting certainly make it stand out from the crowd. In fact, it works really well and I can’t understand why there isn’t more of this supernatural detective noir blend out there. The supporting cast, too, from timid yet beautiful female in trouble to the bartender who knows everyone there is to know could all come straight out of that 1920s/1930s setting. However, they’re all just a little bit different. The young blonde is in fact over 70 years old because she happens to be half-vampire, while the bartender has only a skull for a head even though the rest of his body is perfectly normal. It might sound like a wacky attempt to blend genres but it all works seamlessly.
I suppose some consideration should also be given to plot. It is a mystery novel at heart and what we find are two characters searching for answers to solve a theft. Nothing wildly new here. Naturally, the characters encounter difficulties and face off with the bad guys, trying to avoid dying and save the world. It’s perfectly reasonable, all ties up well and there are little clues along the way if you like to try and solve the mystery yourself. Yet it is the setting and the characters that really make this novel shine and the plot, to me, was almost incidental. I just wanted to explore this fascinating new world and if a plot was happening at the same time then that was great.
You’ve probably guessed by now that I really enjoyed ‘Nekropolis’. It had humour, wonderful descriptions, a good mystery and an exciting new world to enjoy. Even if you’re sceptical of the whole zombie P.I. gimmick, I’d urge you to try and keep an open mind, you might just be pleasantly surprised.
(pub: Angry Robot. 323 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00732-386-9)