Publication Date: January 16, 2018
It’s 1874 and War, Famine, Conquest and Death are called upon to find a little boy from a prominent family. The boy is seen leaving his home with his father, a man who has been dead for three years. In the meantime, Death is doing his day job when he comes across a little girl named Elizabeth that can see him as he’s collecting her aunt and bringing her home. Can the Horseman find out what happened to the boy and other children who have disappeared and what will they do about Elizabeth?
The author, Dave Turner, gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my review.
This book could easily be called “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Holistic Detective Agency.” Conquest and Famine are called to visit Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (Death has a day job and War has been left home after an unfortunate event involving the PM’s cat Mrs. Fluffykins) and asked to help find the son of a dear, departed friend, whose family Disraeli made a deathbed promise to look after. The reader has a bit of an outline as to what is going on because we see this dark entity lure the children (somewhat less than competently) by appearing to them in a form with which that entity feels they’ll be comfortable (hence the dead father).
On the seedier side of London, Elizabeth is leading a very Dickensian kind of life begging on the streets. When begging doesn’t satisfy what she needs to collect for survival for herself and her aunt, she’s not above picking a pocket or two. Though a small child, she is a pragmatist who understands that everyone dies (she has, after all, lost both of her parents and younger brother and lives in an area of London where survival is a skill) and that she needs to make herself useful to her new friends in order to give them a reason to keep her. Elizabeth’s only real long-term plan is to survive.
There is a Doctor Who level brilliance to the antagonist of the piece. Turner coyly drips information to the reader. The antagonist can present itself as anyone you want to see, rather like The Testimony in Twice Upon a Time but with much more sinister intent. We soon learn that the ability can be both a gift and a curse when we meet a man manipulated by the dark entity. What we know for sure is that the antagonist knows of the Four Horsemen and would like to keep any leading information from them. Seriously, the way this character is written is utterly tantalizing and stunningly brilliant. From the start, there’s a sense that it will be the best of baddies because though it could force, it prefers to cajole, but that doesn’t always work out.
That Turner would create these characters in the context that he has is delightful. They are fun and they are wonderfully human without quite being human. The story opens with them at a dinner party acting fully within their characters. The always-eating Famine combines pineapple and cheese for the first time, War is acting cagey and Conquest is called out by a jealous husband. Death, of course, is the lone oddity preferring to do his job and not be seen. If one might call out a unifying factor in the series as the first book. How to Be Dead, is such a departure from Four Horsemen, Death remains very much a character that does his own thing. He is job-oriented with a heart and a difficulty coping with the unexpected. We get a definite view of how the world sees them but walking with them gives us depth to make them wholly unique, wonderfully original and just a treat to read.
Turner is a brilliant writer and very polished. Transitions flow seamlessly, emotion is balanced with humor in adjustment. If you read nothing else, download the sample and check out Mr. Warfield (War’s) trip to get a Christmas Tree with Elizabeth. He was not a fan of small humans before the outing but was utterly enchanted by his companion and so will you be. Turner’s creative world-building informational tidbits are peppered throughout, bringing the reader further into his world.
If you like humor and good writing and ESPECIALLY if you like Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde, pick Four Horsemen up today. While in the unique spirit and humor of the aforementioned writers, you have not read anything like this, I assure you. If you like a good mystery but aren’t into all that supernatural stuff, pick it up. You will thank me.
Read an excerpt and buy Four Horsemen (How to be Dead Book 4) by Dave Turner on