Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dead Man's Rain by Frank Tuttle

TITLE: Dead Man’s Rain
AUTHOR: Frank Tuttle
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 20k)
GENRE: Fantasy mystery
COST: $3.50

In a world where ogres, trolls, and vampires live alongside regular humans, being a Finder isn’t all that noteworthy. Unless you’re Markhat, and a rich widow wants you to find out why her dead husband keeps showing up for midnight strolls around the house they shared. Markhat doesn’t believe in revenants, but if the price is right, he’s willing to see just what it is that’s got the Widow Merlat all in a dither. Hopefully, he’ll even survive the investigation…

Earlier this year, Samhain revised their submission guidelines to focus their market more specifically on romance and erotic romance in all its incarnations. I have to assume this story (and another release in the same world due to come out later this year) was acquired before that change, but what I’m wondering now is, does this mean Samhain isn’t going to accept any future works that the author might set in this world (unless he adds a romance)? Because if that’s the case, then I think an amazing opportunity is going to be missed.

Tuttle’s story is a mystery, set in a fantasy world where almost anything exists. Ogres haul manure wagons down the streets, trolls have waged wars with them in the past, and having hexes placed on you isn’t as unusual as you might think. In just over twenty-thousand words, however, he’s created an environment that is rich in detail, believable with its inner logic, and more fully fledged than a lot of works three times its length. I got sucked into the crisp, vivid prose in the very first few sentences, and I stayed along for the ride throughout the breakneck pacing and grisly – though often funny – details.

Markhat is a wry, if slightly melancholy, narrator. He’s the cynic when everyone around him believes, and by watching the events transpire through his eyes, we experience each surprise even more fully. He’s intelligent without being too smart, intuitive without getting too lucky, and as sympathetic a protagonist as a story like this could ask for. There are hints throughout the story of other elements of this world and Markhat’s history, but within the limitations of the word limit, that’s what they remain – hints. It doesn’t detract from enjoying the story, but it’s most definitely a tease about the potential Markhat really has.

All of the characters have the same deft, riveting realism that elevates the story amongst others in this genre or length. Markhat’s relationship to Jefrey, the Widow Merlat’s last remaining servant, is typical of many in the story – multi-faceted, entertaining, and downright rich in its complexity. It’s surprising just how many layers are built into various elements of the story, when you’d think its brevity would work against it. But those layers are there, and they turn this short novella into something both satisfying and remarkable – at turns funny, horrific, tense, and action-packed. I’m very excited about the next title Mr. Tuttle has coming out with Samhain in August. I just have to keep my fingers crossed that it won’t be the last time I get to read about Markhat.


9/10 – Sharp, vivid detail and tight action make this near un-put-down-able


8/10 – While the lead lacks some history to likely make more of his actions more meaningful, the entire cast feels real, like they could walk into my living room and I’d recognize them off the bat.


10/10 – I loved this. I’m a little surprised I didn’t see the resolution coming because in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. Just like mysteries are supposed to.

Entertainment value

9/10 – Crisp, funny, and suspenseful.

World building

9/10 – The length holds back the reader from fully understanding the world, though what is there is spectacular.




jessewave said...

I have never read a book by this author but your review certainly makes me want to indulge by visiting his world. Other than a few writers (your favourite and mine, Josh Lanyon) there seems to be a dearth of good mystery writing today and I was so pleased to read your review of "Dead Man's Rain" which I will get the next time I'm on Samhain's site. Thanks for a great lead to something different.

Book Utopia Mom said...

I hope you like him, because I really do think he's strong and unique in the market out there. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, if I were to make any sort of analogy. This is probably an excellent way to test to see if his voice works for you since it's so short, too.

Ann Aguirre said...

I think I'm going to get a copy of this, based on your review and the writing sample. This looks fantastic!

Bev(QB) said...

Your review has intrigued me so much that this book is going on my Decadent Desires wish list.