A DATE WITH DEATH is a prequel to the Conjuring a Coroner series by S.C. Stokes, about coroner and unregistered with Kasey Chase. We meet Kasey going about her job, then she’s called in to autopsy the body of Lester Harrington, suddenly deceased gazillionaire. It’s off the books because Harrington’s right hand and estate manager, Vincent, doesn’t want any publicity shining on the family; in return, under-the-table payments will pad out Kasey’s department budget (her boss is down with this).
It soon becomes clear Harrington was murdered, probably by one of his five kids. And his will leaves everything, tontine-style, to the last child to remain alive, an incentive for lots more murder. While the opening of the book is insanely info-dumpy (I really didn’t need to know Kasey’s backstory and magical nature in this much detail up front), the old-school mystery set-up looked promising. Unfortunately it rapidly descends into a mass of generic magical battles that left me underwhelmed. Plus the killer was precisely who I pegged early on — this is one of those books where the least likely suspect really is the murderer.
Still, in light of my ongoing study of urban fantasy for improving Southern Discomfort and Impossible Takes a Little Longer the book did get me thinking how much urban fantasies seem to revolve around mystery. The villain’s identity, and their endgame. That has me wondering whether Southern Discomfort, where Gwalchmai spills much of the beans up front, would benefit by cutting out much of his viewpoint. Not all — he provides a lot of information you can’t get any other way — but reducing his appearances would add to the mystery aspect. It might be worth trying. Impossible already has a strong mystery set-up.
So I shall throw that thought into the mental mill and see what happens when I grind it.
#SFWApro. Couldn’t find cover credits, but rights to the image remain with current holders.