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Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
DISCLAIMER: Lorraine Cormack is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
The Business of Death is the title of an omnibus edition of the Death Works Trilogy. It includes the three books Death Most Definite, Managing Death, and The Business of Death. It is particularly useful to get all three books in one volume because they work best when read together. Read individually, they’re pretty good, but read together they have additional depth which makes for a much stronger story.
Steven de Selby has a massive hangover and wants to avoid going anywhere near his workplace. That shouldn’t be too hard, it’s his day off. But then in the space of just a few minutes, his day goes to hell. Someone starts shooting at him in the food court, and even worse, a dead girl warns him to run. A very attractive dead girl who definitely shouldn’t be hanging around. Steven knows this for sure because he works for Death; it’s his job to help usher souls on to the Underworld. He knows there shouldn’t be a dead girl there, and he doesn’t think anyone would want to kill him.
In a matter of hours, things get worse; all his workmates, which include essentially all his friends and family, are also targeted by whoever wants him dead. A lot of people are dying. The dead are rising – which isn’t a new thing, but is a bad thing – and it looks like Brisbane is on the way to a Regional Apocalypse. Steven realises that someone wants promotion to the top job – Death itself – and that kind of promotion only comes after a lot of blood is shed. So Steven needs to find the “applicant”, stop him or her from tipping the region into chaos, save his own life, and do something about the dead girl who hasn’t crossed over. And he needs to do it fast.
Death Works series, Book 2
Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce
When we left the somewhat hapless Steve at the end of Death Most Definite, he had just managed – through no intention of his own – to become Australia’s Regional Manager of Mortmax. Essentially, he became Australia’s Death. He had also discovered that the Stirrers – that ancient foe of the Psychopomps (employees of Mortmax, responsible for ensuring souls get to the Underworld) – are awaiting the imminent arrival of their god, meaning that they are ‘stirring’, or breaking through into our world via the recently deceased, with increasing frequency. To help him cope with this, he’s changed several people into Pomps, most of them Black Sheep – those with family connections to the Death business but who had themselves not chosen it. Oh, and he’d also brought back to life the woman with whom he’d fallen in love when she was already dead, and turned her (back) into a Pomp, too.
It’s not really a surprise that Managing Death opens with Steve having a nightmare.
The first few chapters deal largely with Steve being his normal whingy, drinking-too-much self, despite his greatly enlarged powers and the fact that he now actually gets to hold Lissa without fear of sending her to Hell. Through him we get to meet a few new characters – my personal favourite being Aunt Neti, an eight-armed and totally intimidating character who helps guard Hell, usually with a batch of scones served on some awfully nice bone china (heh). Also newly introduced, and getting a significant amount of page-time, is Suzanne, the Regional Manager for America. She’s a fairly standard cutthroat business/vixen type, but she gets some pretty good lines. I think her 2IC (or Ankou, in Jamieson’s terminology), Cerbo, is more interesting, although he gets less space to himself. There are also a number of characters from the first book who reappear, of course, including Lissa, who sadly doesn’t get quite as much of an increased role as I had hoped. While she is important, and is never just a damsel in distress or bed-warmer, I was disappointed by the short shrift I think she got particularly towards the end. Steve’s cousin Tim, now his Ankou, has a fairly significant role, and we also get more Wal. Ah, Wal: the fat cherub tattoo Steve got when drunk one night, who pops off his arm and bad-mouths Steve whenever he’s in Hell. Even more than the fact the story is set in Brisbane, Wal is a sign that this is a very Australian book. That, and a burnt-sausage Christmas lunch.
A Death Works novel
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely
After the frenetic events of Death Most Definite, Steven de Selby is struggling to rebuild not only his shattered life, but the Mortmax Australia region, after the narrowly averted Regional Apocalypse. Steven’s business is death, and he’s been thrown in the deep end as the boss of his area. Unfortunately for Steven, he doesn’t just have a company to deal with – the other Regional Managers are also causing problems, and Steven isn’t coping very well with any of it, even his fledgling relationship with Lissa. Can he survive to rebuild
I loved Death Most Definite earlier this year and was very happy to receive a copy of Managing Death to review. At the same time, I was pretty nervous – I wanted this book to eclipse the first in style and substance, but wasn’t sure if Jamieson could manage to be so entertaining a second time around! Luckily, my fears were unfounded. Jamieson has succeeded in maintaining both excitement and characterisation in this compelling book two, paving the way for another action-packed book to follow yet providing a self-contained story arc for this book on its own.
A Death Works novel
Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce
Anthropomorphising death is not a new idea; humans have been doing it for thousands of years. Perhaps my favourite, and one of the more famous modern examples, is Terry Pratchett’s Death, astride his white horse Binky. ‘Death’ has often been characterised as a single individual, either solely responsible for the actual death of every person (much like Santa visiting every kid), or as some sort of observer, making sure your death goes according to plan. Trent Jamieson takes a different approach, by taking and developing the idea of the psychopomp.
Psychopomps act somewhat like the ferryman Charon: not responsible for death itself, they are rather charged with ensuring the soul makes it to the afterlife. This role has often been seen as a supernatural one, with the psychopomps themselves feared as bringers of death. Jamieson’s trick, and one that works very nicely, is to make psychopomps basically ordinary humans, who happen to have a somewhat unusual job. And this is one aspect that makes Death Most Definite an amusing novel to read: being a psychopomp is just that. A job. Complete with bureaucracy, office politics, bad Christmas parties, and the potential for aggressive takeovers.
Death Works Novel
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely, June 2010
Steven de Selby is not your average hero. He’s mediocre at his job, he’s a disappointment to his parents, and he’s still moping about the girl who dumped him years ago. To be honest, Steve’s a bit of a loser. But his job is pretty unusual – Steve is a Psychopomp, or Pomp as they’re known – a person who draws the dead through to the Underworld and who stalls Stirrers, things that desperately desire to come in the other direction. When the entire Pomp organisation in Australia starts collapsing and almost every other Pomp in the region is murdered, Steve finds himself on the run, fighting for his life and the lives of those he loves. But who is the enemy, and how can he possibly beat such a powerful foe, one on a par with Death himself?
There is so much to like about this book. To begin with, I loved the very Australian feel to the story. Death Most Definite is set in contemporary Brisbane (mostly) and as someone who has spent time in that state capital, it was pretty cool to read about places I had visited as conduits to the underworld, or simply as part of the story. But it’s not just about the setting; the book feels Australian on so many levels – the dialogue is especially well done, being a realistic representation of Australian vernacular without dropping into “ockerness”. Jamieson has done an excellent job of ensuring the book at all times has a distinct Australian flavour, divergent entirely from American or British fellows.