This book is not the sort I usually read.
I’m not typically attracted to books involving raped, murdered, and mutilated women. But this book was given to me by the author to read during the long cold winter, so I gave it a try. I’m glad I did.
I think it’s cool that Callie, the main character, is a ghost who doesn’t yet know how to be a ghost (much less why she is one). I was disappointed that Callie didn’t meet any other spirits (or even a human) who could explain at least a bit to her of the how’s and why’s of ghosthood. Can Callie possibly be the only ghost in the Abramsville, Alabama? I hope that in future Callie Taylor adventures our hero will meet folks (dead or alive) who can offer some explanations and tips.
I appreciate that the author doesn’t go into gratuitous gory detail when describing the two murders that happen in this novel. Yes, a woman is raped and murdered and another is murdered and mutilated, but the reader isn’t forced to witness every disturbing detail. Collins reports what the reader needs to know to follow the plot, then allows each individual to imagine the nasty details or not, according to her or his preference.
I chuckled when Callie goes to the Wal-Mart to find a human who can see and hear her. It’s a perfect detail, proving that the author knows just how small Southern towns work.
I thought Collins also reflected race relations in the 21st century South in a true light. Blacks and whites do have relationships (friendships, work connections, romantic encounters) with one another, but such relationships are often fraught with a particular kind of tension. Hurray to Collins for having her characters involved in interracial relationships that are real and complicated.
The cadence of her characters’ conversations also impressed me as the real rhythm of Southern dialogue. I’m not sure someone who hasn’t lived in the South for many years could get the spoken sound of the region so right.
Collins also did a great job with the “who done it?” aspect of the story. As I mentioned, I don’t usually read murder mysteries, but when I do, I either seem to figure out the answer to the mystery immediately, or find the plot so convoluted that I don’t understand the detective’s eventual tidy little explanation of events. Waking Up Dead kept me guessing, kept me reading, but made sense when explanatory details came to light.
My favorite part of this book is that it has not one, not two, but three kick-ass, strong, brave female characters. That one of these characters is a maw-maw (grandma to folks not from the South) who can’t drive and has poor eyesight is an added bonus. There just aren’t enough old lady heroes in the world of fiction, so I’m grateful that Collins has given us a new one.
All in all, I enjoyed this book and look forward to hearing more from Callie Taylor and Margo Bond Collins.