PRETTY LITTLE DEAD THINGS by Gary McMahon (2010 Angry Robot / 312 pp. / tp)
Thomas Usher is the survivor of a car accident that claimed the lives of his wife and daughter. Now it's fifteen years later, and since the accident he's been given the ability to see and receive subtle messages from the dead. In constant grief and attempting to understand his supernatural abilities, Thomas is called to investigate the disappearance of a gangster's daughter...and it leads him on a dark adventure through multiple realities (or "levels") that lead to one gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, intense finale.
McMahon's ghosts are half human/half spirit beings looking to make their way through the afterlife; Thomas Usher is known as an "Usher" as he guides certain souls on their path. In PRETTY LITTLE DEAD THINGS, he also comes face to face with a being that could be a spirit, or a demon, or one that has yet to be discovered, and it's a being whose unpredictability makes this novel nearly impossible to out down.
A strong cast (including Usher's tattooist go-to buddy and his law connection, Detective Inspector Tebbit) makes this novel shine, while a new, complicated relationship between Usher and his one-time mistress named Ellen ads even more depth to an already deep tale. One scene, dealing with a paranormal con-artist, is a highlight of Usher's investigation.
The entire tone of this novel managed to get under my skin; it's constantly dark with nearly every scene filled with dread and impending doom. McMahon's atmopshere is fantastic, thanks to his partially-poetic (and well-timed) prose. While there's a few scenes of well-placed (and graphic) violence, it doesn't distract from the dark fantasy feel (and in fact manages to increase it).
PRETTY LITTLE DEAD THINGS is one of those novels that you don't want to end. You want to follow Usher on his journey, and hopefully he'll be back to help guide more spirits on their way. This one's a keeper and easily one of my favorite horror novels of 2010.
(NOTE: This book will be available in the US and Canada in January, 2011. It will be released in the UK and Australia in November, 2010).