Title: To Catch Her Death (The Grim Reality Series Book 1)
Author: Boone Brux
Published: September 1, 2014
Characterization and badassery
Lisa Carron is slow to adjust to having the ability to reap souls. She holds her own in the face of adversity (her husband’s accidental death) but during a year of mourning she’s let herself go both physically and mentally. Accepting a job as a grim reaper puts her on a slow arc to finding a badassery that is completely new to this widow and mom of three. The book is set up as a series, and by the end of To Catch Her Death, Lisa is poised to take charge and start kicking butt.
Plot and pacing
Most of this book is a prequel to the other books that will come in the series. There are a couple of hanging plot lines that I wished had not been left dangling quite so freely. I’m all for lots of motivation for reading the next book (which I can’t wait to do), but there were several cliffhangers. For that reason, To Catch Her Death isn’t one hundred percent successful as a standalone but nonetheless it is a very enjoyable book. (I feel like I’m not registering all due enthusiasm. So I’ll be clear: Good book! Get + read!)
The approach to a mortal, everyday person becoming a grim reaper as a profession is interesting. Poor Lisa is as clueless about the whole thing as the reader is, so the worldbuild is gentle and effortless. I have a deep appreciation for books that are paced in a way that I don’t feel like I’m studying for a test to learn the world in which the story takes place. (Don’t even get me started on the kind of book that decides it will catch me up on the worldbuild later, and instead throws me right into a whole bunch of characters and action that are entirely unexplained and confusing.) This book succeeds well in creating an interesting worldbuild while keeping it painless to understand. Fiction should be FUN, not work, and this one is all enjoyment.
The only places To Catch Her Death loses energy and slows down are with a few of the background characters. The two sons and the best friend Vella are a little underimagined, though I did like the teenage daughter Bronte and the porters. Lisa’s contentious relationship with her problematic porter Hal makes me look forward to more interactions between the two of them.
Prose and editing
There were some copyedit errors such as “too” when it should have been “to” and that sort of thing. A puzzling number of statements end in an unnecessary question mark which makes the dialogue a little odd in places. That might have been a formatting issue. I will very willingly admit that I am a grammar police kind of girl, the kind that would use a pen to correct grammar mistakes in my school textbooks because they drove me crazy. So what sticks out to me might entirely fly under the radar to others.
Besides these things that I am a picky fussbudget about, this is a solidly written book. I particularly liked the descriptions of the mechanics involved with reaping a soul. I felt like I really understood Lisa’s sensation of sticky dirtiness after reaping a thoroughly unsavory character. What’s more, I liked how Boone Brux handles such a dark topic. She walks a tight line between macabre and lightness, which keeps it from getting (pardon the pun) grim. The tone stays upbeat in spite of the paranormal element, which can so easily skew morbid and grisly.
The prose in To Catch Her Death is smooth and easy, like a good red wine. I never felt like I needed to skip or skim because of extraneous words. (I admit, I do that a lot. But not with this book.)
This book was full of moments that inspired a mental smirk, as well as a few physical ones. Lisa’s self-deprecating observations do well to establish her character as a frowzy, dull housewife. The best humor moments for me are the descriptive characteristics Lisa assigns to the people she meets. My favorite was when she characterized a guy as “Mr. Snack Cake” because of the object of his attention at the convenience mart. There’s definitely a foundation for laugh-out-loud humor to develop, and I hope to see that in future entries to this series. Lisa’s specialty in reaping–people who died in stupid ways–definitely presents opportunities for humorous circumstances.
I really liked this book. I feel like this book was just the windup for the real event, so I will be watching for the sequel. I do wish there were an eensy oonce more roundness to the story to make it really work as a standalone. But the plotlines that were left hanging are also keeping me interested in the next book, so they are fulfilling their intended purpose. I have the sense that in Book 2, Lisa is really going to let loose with some badassery, and I’m excited about seeing that happen. The author has carefully cultivated this character to evolve from a muddled hausfrau to a self-aware woman on the brink of becoming adventurous. Can’t wait to see it happen! It’s like that moment when Clark Kent turns into Superman and you’re all like “Woohoo! Here comes the ass-kicking!”
Some books I like and forget quickly, and some stick out in my mind like a mental post-it note. This is one that has stuck, and although it’s been months since I first read it, it keeps coming back to my thoughts. For me, that’s a real winner.