Book Reviews

Review: Posted to Death by Dean James

14. Posted to Death by Dean James
Publication: Kensington; F edition (April 1, 2002), Hardback, 242pp / ISBN 1575668858
Genre: Mystery, GLBT
Read: January 20, 2010
Source: Library
Summary from Amazon:

Amateur sleuth Simon Kirby-Jones, who has appeared in short stories by Edgar-nominee and Agatha-winner James (Closer than the Bones), is sure to revolutionize the traditional British cozy and win the hearts of fans everywhere in his first full-length mystery. Simon is not only American and gay but also a vampire whose sun sensitivity and blood sucking urges are controlled by medication. (Garlic, though, can be deadly.) Thrilled to be living in England, he is eager to make the village of Snupperton Mumsley his home, where he plans to write more of his well-known historical works and lucrative pot-boilers. Seeking to become part of the community, Simon joins the fundraising committee of St. Ethelwold’s, the local church. At the first meeting an argument erupts between Lady Prunella Blitherington, matriarch of the village’s first family, and Abigail Winterton, the town busybody and postmistress, about the choice of the play to be presented as the fundraiser. When Abigail, disliked by almost everyone, is found murdered the next day, Simon determines to find her killer and in so doing discovers all the sordid secrets of Snupperton Mumsley.


I know I have a multitude of problems with most of the cozy mysteries published in the last ten or so years, but somehow if it’s set in a small English countryside town I can let anything slide. Take this book, for instance: the protagonist solves the mystery for no other reason than pure curiosity, even when the police are doing a somewhat decent job of it already. But I didn’t mind!
I also have a lot of problems with modern vampire stories, where they always seem to have much of the benefits and none of the setbacks (except an allergy to garlic and the ability to be killed by a stake in the heart)– neutered vampires, I call them. I’m pretty bored with neutered vampires; I want my vampires to have bite, you know? Simon’s a neutered vampire who can even go out during the day and doesn’t feel the need to drink blood…but I didn’t mind!
Imagine how shocked I was when I finished it and realized I had let myself enjoy something I’d probably normally hate.
I think partly it was the small English town thing and also because the protagonist, Simon, is so charming and likable. I think basically Posted to Death tricked me into liking it with its quirky characters, charming protagonist, and its light/kinda fluffy writing that didn’t take itself too seriously. I think the author knew the plot was ridiculous, and s/he just ran with it. So while normally I’d pretty much hate this book because it has a lot of the things I hate, I actually enjoyed it a lot!
And yeah, Simon’s that stupid kind of vampire, but I didn’t mind until the end, when I realized that there’s really no reason for him to be a vampire except that he vaguely used his extra-good hearing to eavesdrop.
I think that pretty much sums up my problem with this book: while I enjoyed reading it, and I liked basically everything about it (the setting, the characters, the uber-Britishness of the townspeople, the crazy dialogue that sounds fake but is surreal-y serious, etc), some of the details didn’t really seem important to the overall mystery. Like Simon’s vampirism, for instance. He doesn’t use it to investigate, really. There’s no real point to it, except to make the story a bit more interesting, I suppose.
Hopefully in the next book Simon gets to put his vampire abilities to better use, although I still think it’s a cop-out that he doesn’t need any blood whatsoever and gets to offset his bloodthirstiness with two pills (taken daily). At least he wasn’t neutered romantically even though he’s neutered vampirically– he has a least three potential love interests, including one that I’m hoping turns out happily-ever-after later on.
Anyway, the mystery was very Midsomer Murders, with some twists. I was lured along with a red herring for most of the book, but it was a fun ride. If you’re like me and aren’t sure about cozy mysteries and/or modern sorts of vampires, I’d recommend giving this book a shot anyway. It might just trick you into liking it, as well. (And then at least I wouldn’t feel like a hypocrite.)


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