dying to read: the review of a lifetime

Remember this little bombshell?


So about 8 months ago, I was “interviewing” author Kory M. Shrum about her book series starring a certain undeadish young woman named Jesse Sullivan. You know, that seemingly-immortal snark factory of a girl that has made a decent living for herself dying in place of others for a job that’s half-FBI, half-insurance agent?

Uh, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, drop everything and go get the the book here. It’s FREE, by the way (because Kory rocks!!)

Anyway, at the time of that post, I had just finished book 2, Dying by the Hour, in which half the story is told by Jesse’s assistant/partner/best friend/sometimes more, Ally. It was pretty clear that Kory was into playing with perspectives, one of my favorite writer tricks. And, as I neared the end of my 20 Questions list, I threw out a wild card. It was just supposed to be innocent. For funsies.

Brinkley. Hint hint. 😉 

I nearly spit out my coffee. Like some sort of paranormal-fiction version of Woodward and Bernstein, I had stumbled upon a literary revelation. I’d inadvertently cracked a mystery wide open. I guess it’s true: sometimes you just gotta keep pulling the sweater.

But enough about me moonlighting as a book detective, let’s get to the meat and potatoes here.

dying for her

Hint hint indeed, Ms. Shrum. Almost 8 months to the date of that post, we get Dying for Her, a book told entirely from the perspective of James Brinkley, Jesse’s FBRD handler turned rogue agent. Well-played.

When I first read that infamous Post-It note, my first instinct was Wow. That’s gutsy. Taking a peripheral character, a character that I wasn’t all that invested in to be honest, and just about the only character without a cool power, and give us an entire book from his perspective.

Gutsy, to say the least.

But, having just finished Dying for Her, I have to say it was probably my favorite book of the entire series thus far.

Is it a true sequel? No, because a majority of it takes place in the past. So is it a true prequel then? No, because a lot of it catches up with the present, even going as far as fleshing out the events of Book 2.

So what is it exactly?

Well, I’d have to say it’s nearly the entire history of the world Jesse Sullivan lives in…except that it’s masterfully told as a hard-boiled detective novel.

Yeah, that’s right. All those ‘blanks’ you’ve been wondering about get filled in and you’ll be treated to great cop-noir to boot.

In all seriousness, Shrum really shows her writing chops with this one. Brinkley is a very layered character with a pretty heavy past. To think that his voice was written by the same person that gives Jesse her snark and Ally her sexy professionalism is almost unbelievable. And yet I was completely invested from page one.

Brinkley’s perspective shows calculated maturity and restraint, which really creates a perfect backdrop for Jesse’s recklessness and wisecracking.

And I think the most amazing thing about this book is that it’s told in flashbacks, interspersed with a countdown to an event that you already kind of know how it ends, and yet this was by far the most painful of the 3 books to put down. I was late for work at least twice because I couldn’t stop reading. That’s the hallmark of a great book.

More than the intrigue of character origins (which are in abundance), I think the riveting nature of this story is due in part to Shrum’s amazing worldbuilding skills. I’ve talked about this before, how real her version of the world feels, fully-realized. But taking that thoroughness and being able to expand it into a police procedural? That’s next level.

In Hollywoodese: it’s X-Files meets Law and Order: SVU with a twist of Die Hard. And it delivers on all counts.

Don’t wait. Brinkley’s story is available today, so pick your poison:


Check out Kory’s blog, follow her on Twitter @koryshrum, and stay tuned to my blog for more from this amazingly talented author.


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