‘I love death, but hate the smell of it. How can that be? And how terribly unfair. To be so drawn to something, yet so repulsed by it at the same time.’
I really struggled with this category of the Christmas challenge because I will genuinely read anything. Play Dead on the outset sounds like something I’d normally read, with zombies and voodoo, however when I read some of the reviews on Amazon I realised it was more of a crime/mystery/thriller book. While I enjoy a good thriller/crime novel I haven’t read one in a while (I read a Kathy Reichs book back in the summer) so that’s why I chose this one for this category.
It follows Savannah detectives Elise Sandburg and David Gould as dead bodies start turning up, except they aren’t dead. It seems that in a community that is superstitious, and believes in black magic and voodoo, someone is making zombies. Play Dead was interesting in the way it looked at these superstitions and interweaved them with logic and rationality. The best way this is demonstrated is through the detectives themselves; David Gould is a transfer into Savannah with a traumatic past and refuses to believe in the voodoo traditions that the rest of Savannah seems almost afraid of. Elise, on the other hand was a baby abandoned in a cemetery, rumoured to be the daughter of an infamous root doctor or witch doctor, Jackson Sweet. As we read we learn that Elise dabbled in voodoo when she was younger and stops when she suspects that magic is the reason her ex-husband married her. Frasier keeps the reader on edge, we aren’t sure whether the magic is real or not, and this helps build the suspense and mystery in this novel.
The narrative switches perspectives, which adds an extra creepiness factor when it switches to the murderer’s view point with no warning. The obsession with death, the almost erotic imagery that surrounds the decaying bodies and the compulsion and drive to kill is almost hypnotic.
My only critique would be the ending, I felt a little like it came out of nowhere. I understand that the majority of the book was laying groundwork, setting the scene and explaining the familial relationships and their complexities – however, the end seemed like a little bow to tie everything in and leave certain characters unscathed. That said, Frasier is a talented writer and I can’t wait to start the next book, Stay Dead.