Reviews: Quick takes on The Dead Man, volumes 3-8

Dead Man 3: Hell in Heaven

My original plan, as I mentioned when I reviewed the first two volumes in this terrifically fun combination of men’s adventure and horror, was not to review them all. I planned to review volumes that stuck out for one reason or another–an author of particular interest to the readers of The Violent World of Parker, or a particularly excellent series entry.

But I read ’em, so I may as well write about ’em. Here are (mostly) quick takes on The Dead Man numbers three through eight. I read these over the course of a few months, so my memory of the details and my recollection of my enjoyment level of a particular volume has faded (except for the last two, which I read recently), so caveat emptor.

Hell in Heaven (#3) by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin

Matt Cahill takes a side road and finds himself in a town called Heaven. When he pulls in on his motorcycle, he sees a banner strung up across the main street. It reads, “Welcome Home, Matt.”

Things get stranger from there.

I wish I’d given this one a write-up when I read it, because it’s the best of the books I’ve read so far in a series that’s pretty great overall. This one I’m likely to revisit sometime down the road. Highly recommended.

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The Dead Woman (#4) by David McAfee

One of the fun things about a series with so many writers and an everyman (sort of) character like Matt Cahill is that the writers can try him out in a variety of settings and plots. This one puts him in a situation that involves, among much else, a serial killer on the loose.

The mystery is too easy for the reader to figure out, alas.

Dead Man 5

The Blood Mesa (#5) by James Reasoner

This one goes with that old plot standby, archaeologists digging up Things That Should Not Be Disinterred. While I didn’t think it quite worked, Reasoner does a nice job sketching out the characters at the dig and showing the tensions that arise when you put a bunch of young grad students in the field together for a few months. It’s got a slam-bang ending, too.

Dead Man 6

Kill Them All (#6) by Harry Shannon

A valiant effort at putting Matt Cahill in a Western setting, achieved by having him visit the remains of what used to be an Old West tourist trap, now fallen on hard times.

Valiant, but it falls short due to the amount of suspension of disbelief required, even for this series. Author Shannon really has to strain to recreate that gunfight milieu in the day and age of cars, computers, and mobile phones.

It’s an admirable effort, though, and one that demonstrates the endless possibilities for this series. I’m glad someone took a stab at a Dead Man Western!

Dead Man 7

The Beast Within (#7) by James Daniels

This one is getting savaged in the reviews at Amazon, completely unfairly. Apparently some people object that it doesn’t really advance the larger storyline.

The problems with these objections is, a.) it does advance the storyline, if you’re paying attention, and b.) who cares if it doesn’t? If I recall correctly (and I didn’t watch the show that often, to be honest), didn’t The X-files do just fine by having some episodes based around the larger conspiracy and some one-offs where Scully and Mulder took on a smaller mystery? In a series built to last, there should be one-offs and asides.

This is actually one of the best in the series to date. Matt Cahill gets in the middle of two warring sects of white supremacist survivalists in rural Michigan. The leader of one of the sects, Charles Kingman, has, in a book of pseudo-scientific racist ravings that he authored, written something that causes Matt to wonder if he might have some insight into Matt’s own mysteries. But Charles Kingman is, of course, insane, and preoccupied with bigger things than Matt at the moment.

I recognized that author James Daniels has some knowledge of the area’s white supremacy movement, as I grew up in Michigan and spent some time in the Detroit-area punk scene where I acquired some second-hand knowledge of it myself. The acronym used by the skinheads in the novel (which I won’t type here because I don’t want the search term to result in incoming hits to this site) is indeed used. There are some small towns reputed to be hotbeds of this sort of activity. There are militias, although most try to distance themselves from the white supremacists.

Throw in a trio of mysterious Russians (one quite beautiful, of course), a dark ritual, an exciting final battle, and a prominent reference to a Mack Bolan – Executioner novel, and you’ve got yourself a grand old evening of reading.

Dead Man 8

Fire and Ice (#8) by Jude Hardin

Matt Cahill has picked up a short-term temp job at a chemical plant in order to make a little money to fund his journeys. While he has no intention of staying long-term with his woman of the moment, he does feel the need to stick around a little longer than he had planned, due to the presence of the evil force (Mr. Dark) in the small Florida industrial town.

And then the evil strikes. One morning, the plant goes into lockdown. Everyone is trapped inside, with a disgruntled former employee in total control of the environment, dispatching his perceived enemies one by one. And his plans are bigger than just knocking off a few former coworkers.

In addition to the unfortunately always-timely topic of mass shootings, Fire and Ice takes place in real time, each of its dozens of chapter covering only a few pages and a few minutes. Another winner in this innovative series. Add this one to the quickly-growing Dead Man greatest hits collection.

Now I’ll have a little fun playing DJ, with a Dead Man inspired mix tape.

Patrick Swayze – “Raising Heaven (in Hell Tonight)”

Matthew Ryan – “The Dead Girl”

Here’s a great noir song.

I couldn’t think of one for The Blood Mesa.

Metallica – “No Remorse” (from Kill ’em All)

Insane Clown Posse – “Chicken Huntin'”

The Michigan-based rap duo is referenced in The Beast Within.

Pat Benatar – “Fire and Ice”