Title: The Dying Squad
Author: Adam Simcox
Release Date: 22/7/21
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 37
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Gollancz, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
WHO BETTER TO SOLVE A MURDER THAN A DEAD DETECTIVE?
When Detective Inspector Joe Lazarus storms a Lincolnshire farmhouse, he expects to bring down a notorious drug gang; instead, he discovers his own body and a spirit guide called Daisy-May.
She’s there to enlist him to The Dying Squad, a spectral police force who solve crimes their flesh and blood counterparts cannot.
Lazarus reluctantly accepts and returns to the Lincolnshire Badlands, where he faces dangers from both the living and the dead in his quest to discover the identity of his killer—before they kill again.
We all know by know I love a police procedural with fantastical elements! Give me an investigation and magic and I am reading that book! This was a little different, but still a big yes from me – a detective inspector finds his own body at a crime scene and is tasked by the powers at be in Purgatory to investigate his own murder.
This is really inventive. It reads like a dark and gritty cop show with splashes of whimsy, some really cool world building and some great dark humour. The investigation is great, I loved the concept of the Dying squad. A group of not quite passed on souls that investigate the deaths of other souls so that they can pass on from purgatory to paradise and finally rest. We read across a few point of views, DI Joe Lazarus is a fresh face in the dying squad, tasked with solving his own Murder to the benefit of more than just himself. I really enjoyed his narration. Putting on the air of surly cop you could tell he was really dedicated to his job and the revelations of this case driving him on while battling with failing memories of his life before he passed on. This really allowed us the reader to follow along with him as he came to grips with being dead but still functioning in the afterlife.
Daisy-May is his plucky teenage spirit guide. Think "Its a Wonderful life" with sass. She is a fantastic character. She ends up taking on a much more central role than I expected her too in the beginning and we learn so much about her as she helps Lazarus with his investigation. I found myself really warming to her and feeling sorry for her as the events of both her life and her afterlife take a turn for the worst.
We also get the perspective of the Duchess. Raised to be in charge of purgatory her story really sets up the lore of the afterlife and is where we get a lot of the world building. I really enjoyed the bureaucracy of Purgatory. I love a good bit of fantasy red tape and with a threat of a coup looming over her department. These sections were a little muddier than the rest of the book. I did find that they could get a little confusing epically when titles were dropped etc. It seemed a little too many names to remember whom was who. If I am honest I wanted a bit more physical description too. Purgatory came off as rather black void but there was also talk of buildings etc that just didn’t have physical descriptions so became rather nebulous which was a little disappointing as the concepts behind this version of the afterlife were really fun.
This book is jam packed with twists. The various investigations, timelines and memories really build for some great reveals that are well paced thorough out the book. I especially like the way the memory loss trope works within this world, it adds some more tension and complication to the investigation. The writing really shines as there is a real darkness to the investigation that builds as more is revealed yet it is punctuated with moments of humour, light and friendship that make it and enjoyable read.