A plethora of novels submitted to horror review sites these days fall into the category of “urban fantasy.” This hybrid subgenre, which mixes (often dark) fantasy with a big city ambiance, is becoming almost as tedious as stories of the zombie plague. Die and Stay Dead by Nicholas Kaufmann manages to be a satisfying urban fantasy, despite succumbing to certain clichés of its ilk. Trent, the narrative’s intriguing protagonist, is an amnesiac who cannot stay dead. He is murdered multiples times, and always comes back to life; the individual in nearest proximity to him then dies in his place. Like the similarly memory challenged Jason Bourne, this guy can be lethal to those in his vicinity.
Trent’s first person narration is peppered with wry observations. When it appears someone recognizes him, and can give him a moniker and some biographical background, he sums up his feelings thus: “Suddenly it felt really good to have a name that hadn’t been given to me by a psychotic crime boss. A psychotic crime boss who turned out to be a reanimated dead body under the control of a deranged necromancer. Christ, was this really my life?” This rumination nicely recapitulates an aspect of Trent’s life that is established in his debut appearance in Dying is My Business.
New York City is Trent’s turf, and supernatural terrors again infest The Big Apple on a huge scale. The magic wielding survivor of a Doomsday Cult is determined to bind a mega-demon, known as the Destroyer of Worlds, to his service. On the hunt for the malevolent mage, Trent and his occult associates who comprise the organization The Five-Pointed Star, encounter powerful horrific obstacles—over and over again.
Repetitious dire situations eventually detract from the drama and sense of doom. While author Kaufmann does each time amplify the power, physical size, and sheer numbers of the evil entities, there is a sense of thematic overkill; and ending the tale with a metaphorical “to be continued…” is rather predictable, as well. Tense, pulse-pounding action sequences do exist in the novel, but it’s a pity that they are nearly buried by redundancy.
Die and Stay Dead is a sequel that works best when focusing on character. Trent is arresting in his angst. He longs for normalcy amid chaos, and craves to find his identity and the reason for his springing back from death. Answers are revealed, but no spoilers in this review. Suffice to say that in this installment of the series, he remains a work in progress. St. Martin’s Press scored publishing success with the first adventure featuring the enigmatic Trent, and urban fantasy fanciers will be likely be pleased by his return.