Dead Matter
Anton Strout
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Buy *Dead Matter* by Anton Strout

Dead Matter
Anton Strout
336 pages
February 2010
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Urban fantasy fans, meet metal-telescoping, bat-wielding Simon Canderous, an agent with the Department of Extraordinary Affairs. Itís a super-secret branch of the government dealing with paranormal activities - sorta like Fringe but with even more nasty monsters to report on and combat. Often, the red tape and paperwork is as much a headache for agents as it is to battle supernatural entities. Simon is a psychometric, a person who has the power to see in his mindís eye the history and events involved with the objects he touches with his bare hands. Thatís the reason he usually wears gloves, to avoid being constantly overwhelmed by the images and feelings he would otherwise experience.

In the third installment of Anton Stroutís amazing and darkly humorous supernatural thriller series, Simonís partner, Connor Christos, has taken a lengthy leave to deal with personal issues and try to find out more about his brother, Aiden, who disappeared 22 years ago and is presumed to be dead. In the meantime, Simon faces vampires, dealing with Connorís apparent breakdown and the very strange disappearance of his girlfriend, Jane, who is pulled into a mall directory she touches and becomes an unwilling resident of one of Americaís largest malls, the Gibson-Case Center.

Simon and Jane, who can communicate with computers and has the job of categorizing occult books at ďTome, Sweet Tome for Greater and Lesser Arcana,Ē just want to enjoy each otherís company and are determined not to let anything get in the way of Taco Night, but thatís not in the cards. Simon has been swamped with an extra heavy work load due to Connorís absence, and the last thing he wants when he goes grocery shopping with Jane is for them to run into yet another monster to battle and then write up a report on, but thatís what happens. Going down one of the aisles, they see a creature who looks like it might have come out of Ghostbusters - ďa humanoid made out of melted waxĒ with very broad shoulders ďnearly touching shelf to shelf,Ē and a mouth that ďwas a gnarled mass of giant pointed teeth that stuck out in every direction.Ē It tries its best to ruin Taco Night, but Simon and Jane handle it relatively easily, though Simon gets bruised and banged up in the encounter.

While the creature is unlike any that Simon has faced before, it doesnít seem particularly any worse than any other heís faced - even though it deals huge amounts of damage to itself, even when Jane explodes batteries to coat the monster with battery acid. Another pain in Simonís side, the Enchancellor Allorah, contrarily believes that the creature might be vampiric. Since vampires are her specialty, she demands Simon and Janeís complete cooperation with her investigation. Simon doubts that the creature has anything to do with vampires, and heís reluctant to let the thought enter into his head that vampires might be attempting to exert their influence in Manhattan (he got into some trouble in a previous book in the series when he believed a vampire was about).

Simon and Jane are trying to get to the bottom of why the property that the Gibson-Case Mall is built on has been kept largely a secret for hundreds of years. They also try to help Connor, whom they discover in a graveyard swarmed with evil ghosts; heíd wanted to enlist their aid to learn if his brother is dead or alive. When Jane is, as I mentioned before, drawn into the Mall Directory, with Simon helpless to prevent her from disappearing, he has no choice but to rely on Connor to get Jane back. Simon isnít sure if Connorís grasp on sanity is firm enough to do him much good, and Connor is himself reluctant to help at first, being more concerned with finding out more about Aidenís fate. Still, they join forces, and thatís when the action really picks up.

This highly entertaining, page-turning romp will keep you up late into the night.. When Simon and Connor discover that the Mall fronts a haven of vampire activity, their duty as government agents is to report it. But duty doesnít always come first, not when oneís family is on the line. Aiden is one of the vampires they encounter, and the leader of the vampires offers a deal to help Simon recover his girlfriend, placing duty at best secondary in importance to Simon and Connor. Fans of urban fantasy and novels involving the supernatural are sure to love Dead Matter.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Douglas R. Cobb, 2010

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