Full Disclosure – I was provided a copy of the book by the author as a member of his “A-Team”, however, have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.
Death Becomes Him
Death Calls is ninth in the Wildcat Wizard series of novels and continues the adventures of Arthur “The Hat” Salzman. Picking up sometime after Ash Addict, the story starts fast and furious with Arthur and Vicky right in the middle of a tense situation. True to form, things don’t go to plan, and thanks to his pint-sized sidekick, Arthur finds himself meeting Death once again. Rather than being sent back, Arthur learns that his contract is due, and he must stay behind and take the reaper’s place. Never one to be kept down, Arthur plots to return to the living, but what will happen to purgatory if nobody is there to assist the recently departed on their way?
To say that Death Calls is a bit of a shocker is quite an understatement. Everything about this book, including the awesome cover, is designed to make the reader go “What the heck!”. If you’ve been following this series from the beginning, you are aware that the main character, Arthur, has been gifted a limited number of extra lives by his faery godmother Sasha, and we finally get to see what happens when they are used up. Being an ace gangster Wildcat as he is, Arthur is not one to take his forced retirement for eternity (or until the next sucker shows up) laying down, and with the help of Vicky, he manages to escape. But at what cost? Arthur soon learns the consequences of his trickery, and with all manner of dark arts devotees and the previous underworld occupant after him for various reasons it appears that he may finally have dug himself (and the entire world) into a hole that he can’t weasel out of.
I really liked Death Calls. The beginning scenes where Arthur and Vicky are basically one second away from death or at least a serious beating reminded me of the opening scene of Blood Moon. Al excels at tossing the reader right into the action and setting a breakneck pace as the story unfolds and this is probably one of the main reasons why I enjoy reading his books so much. Watching Arthur as he assumes the mantle of the reaper is both amusing and heartbreaking as he helps all manner of recently departed on their way. The introduction of Penelope’s strung out cousin provided some additional comedy and it seemed to me that while Arthur will most likely hate every minute of it – he may have just picked up a secondary sidekick to make his life hilariously miserable. So, with all lives apparently exhausted will Arthur take is easy and be more cautious or will his Wildcat ways continue? It will be interesting to see when the story continues with Empty Heart.