Science fiction and fantasy                                            



Death Most Definite

by Trent Jamieson

What if death were a day job? Steven de Selby works for Mortmax in Brisbane, where he's a Pomp, which sadly has nothing to do with wearing wigs and fancy clothes and marching around. He guides the spirits of the dead to the afterlife. He's also a bit of a slacker who fell into the family business of Pomping by default and never had much ambition to do anything with his life.

Things start to change when a dead woman saves his life and then disappears, resisting the usual process of moving on to the afterlife. Her name is Lissa, and if he so much as touches her she will disappear. Every Pomp in the area has become a target for assassination as someone makes an attempt to become the new Regional Death, a process which means killing every single one of Mortmax's employees.

Before the pace quickens we learn about Steven's family life. He's close to his parents, and trades insults and banter with his cousin Tim, who is known as a Black Sheep because he refused to become a Pomp. There are plenty of scenes of human closeness to begin with, establishing Steven's humanity and likeableness. However, things get crazy when Stirrers come on the scene. These destructive spirits from beyond the normal world inhabit and animate the bodies of the dead, a little like zombies but with much more intelligence, and they are the mortal enemies of Pomps. As the Stirrers multiply they begin to threaten Australia with far worse than a bloody corporate takeover.

Death Most Definite is a hooky page turner that starts with a juicy mystery about who is behind the killing spree, continues with a sweet thread of impossible unrequited love, throws in eldritch horrors and supernatural weirdness, then piles on unexpected twists to keep things interesting.

In spite of the title, Death isn't really definite in the world Trent Jamieson has created. The character of Death, known as Mr D, has a shifting face and is a strange guy. He isn't even the only Death in the world. The concept of death is also permeable, with creatures trying to pass out of the afterlife constantly.

Steven is an everyman. He's honourable, lazy, likeable, slightly built, and pretty normal, so it's easy to relate to him even when he's doing increasingly bizarre rituals or fighting for his life. However, because he's so regular he doesn't stand out as much as the cheeky cherub Wal, and he's not as memorable as Lissa who always knows what to say to put Steven in his place.

Death Most Definite is a charming and action-packed series starter, and the Death Works series is worth a look if you fancy a modern take on grim reapers.

5th November 2017

Book Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Books

  Fantasy
    Male Protagonist  

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4 star rating

Review ©

Source: own copy

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