Dead to Me (Simon Canderous Series #1) [NOOK Book]

Overview

A new urban fantasy featuring a man working on the right side of law-with talents that come from left field.

Psychometry-the power to touch an object and divine information about its history-has meant a life of petty crime for Simon Canderous, but now he's gone over to the good side. At New York's underfunded and (mostly) secret Department of Extraordinary Affairs, he's ...
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Dead to Me (Simon Canderous Series #1)

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Overview

A new urban fantasy featuring a man working on the right side of law-with talents that come from left field.

Psychometry-the power to touch an object and divine information about its history-has meant a life of petty crime for Simon Canderous, but now he's gone over to the good side. At New York's underfunded and (mostly) secret Department of Extraordinary Affairs, he's learning about red tape, office politics, and the basics of paranormal investigation. But it's not the paperwork that has him breathless.

After Simon spills his coffee on (okay, through) the ghost of a beautiful woman- who doesn't know she's dead-he and his mentor plan to find her killers. But Simon's not prepared for the nefarious plot that unfolds before him, involving politically correct cultists, a large wooden fish, a homicidal bookcase, and the forces of Darkness, which kind of have a crush on him.


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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"Simon Canderous is a reformed thief and a psychometrist. By turns despondent over his luck with the ladies (not always living) and his struggle with the hierarchy of his mysterious department (not always truthful), Simon's life veers from crisis to crisis. Following Simon's adventures is like being the pinball in an especially antic game, but it's well worth the wear and tear."
Charlaine Harris

"Urban fantasy with a wink and a nod. Anton Strout has written a good- hearted send-up of the urban fantasy genre. Dead To Me is a genuinely fun book with a fresh and firmly tongue-in-cheek take on the idea of paranormal police. The laughs are frequent as are the wry smiles. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next."
- Kelly McCullough, author of Cybermancy, Webmage and Codespell

"Part Ghostbusters, part Men-in-Black, Strout's debut is both dark and funny, with quirky characters, an eminently likable protagonist, and the comfortable, familiar voice of a close friend. His mix of (mostly) secret bureaucratic bickering and offbeat action shows New York like we've never seen it before. Make room on the shelf, because you're going to want to keep this one!"
-Rachel Vincent, author of Stray and Rogue

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101208717
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/26/2008
  • Series: Simon Canderous Series , #1
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 121,242
  • File size: 371 KB

Read an Excerpt

psy•chom•e•try (si-kom'i-tre) n.
1. The power to touch an object and divine information about its history.
2. For Simon Canderous: not as cool as it sounds.

Possessing the power of psychometry has meant a life of petty crime and failed relationships for Simon Canderous, but now he's gone over to the good side. A recent recruit to New York City's underfunded and (mostly) secret Department of Extraordinary Affairs, Simon's learning his way around mazes of red tape, office politics, and the basics of paranormal investigation. But it's not just the paperwork that has him breathless...

After Simon spills his coffee on (okay, through) the mysterious ghost of a beautiful woman—who doesn't know she's dead—he and his mentor decide to track down her killers. But Simon's not at all prepared for the strange and nefarious plot that unfolds before him, one involving politically correct cultists, a large wooden fish, a homicidal bookcase, and the forces of Darkness, which kind of have a crush on him.

My cell phone vibrated to life in the pocket of my brown suede coat and I nearly jumped out of my skin. The last thing I expected in the pre-dawn hours was a phone call on my private line. I pulled it out and checked the display.

CONNOR CALLING.

Connor Christos was my Other Division mentor. He specialized in working with ghosts, but was surprisingly not a part of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs' Haunts-General Division. They took more of a ghost-busting approach to their work, while Connor was more of a spirit spotter and ad-hoc psychologist to the lingering undead, when his lack of patience didn't get in the way. Why he was calling me this time of night, I had no idea.

I flipped my phone open and was greeted by an earful of static.

"Simon!" Connor called out through the choppy signal. "Did... wake...ou, kid?"

"Don't worry," I said. "I was already up."

There was desperation in Connor's voice. The signal on my cell phone continued to break up. It sounded like listening to an old-time radio as it was being flipped through a variety of stations.

"Need... help. Can you meet... University... Seventh?"

Maybe it was the bad connection, but I thought I could hear nervousness in his voice and I didn't like it. Usually he was the calm and collected one.

"University and Seventh?" I repeated. "Yeah, I'm up on Seventy-Ninth, but I can be down there in about ten minutes. Traffic should be light."

"Thanks, kid," he said, "and hurry." The static rose once more and the line fell dead.

Something strange was brewing and a horrible feeling began building in the pit of my stomach. I needed to get moving, but the shady antiques dealer was still taking his sweet time finishing his packing job.

"Can you bubble wrap it?" I asked. "And hurry up. I'm packing for battle."

***

After I hung up with Connor, I jumped a cab and headed downtown. Thirteen minutes later, the cab dropped me off at West Eighth and University and I headed toward Washington Square Park. I looked for signs of Connor, but didn't see him. When I came across a small crowd of drunken late-night tourists fleeing towards Union Square, however, I figured I was on the right track. They jostled their way past me, and I lifted my shopping bag over my head and out of harm's way. A clamor of footsteps and the crash of metal came from the alley between Sixth and Seventh, and I ran toward it while the last of the tourists snapped a few quick pictures.

The alley was filled with a weak yellow light from high overhead and I slowed as I followed the sound, partly out of caution but also because the last few blocks had winded me. I followed the alley along another fifty feet before it turned right. I rounded the corner and found Connor standing a few feet away with his back to me. Something stirring farther along in the darkness had caught his eye. At my approach, he turned and held a single finger to his lips. His muss of sandy brown hair looked more unkempt than usual and there was a strange white streak an inch wide in it that hadn't been there the last time I'd seen him.

"What happened to your hair?" I whispered. Then realization dawned. "You've been skunked!"

"You're kidding," Connor said with an almost schoolboyish glee in his voice. He tugged at his hair, trying to pull it far enough forward to see for himself. "Really?"

"You're excited about it?" I asked. "Makes you look older."

"Course I am," he whispered back, beaming with pride. "You know it's something special to be skunked, kid. A mark of prestige in the Department. It means you looked the devil in the eye and lived to tell about it."

"That's comforting," I said, feeling for the retractable bat hanging from my belt. "So now you're in their elite little Hair Club for Men?"

"They prefer to be called the White Stripes, thank you," Connor shot back.

"I know that, but they're sooo not hip enough to pull that off," I said, adamant.

Connor shushed me and sighed before changing the subject.

"You're late, kid," he whispered. There was a bit of venom to his tone. "And thanks for saying I look older. You're all heart."

I ignored his attitude. "What's the sitch?"

Connor turned back to the dark and unexplored section of the alley.

"I was minding my own goddamn business walking up University," he said, "when I heard a scream. It was hideous—like someone getting their back waxed. Then, out of nowhere, this spectral phantasm appears, streaking up and down the alley and scaring the souvenirs right out of a group of tourists."

I looked at the ground. Shot glasses with the Statue of Liberty on them, "I Heart NY" T-shirts, bootleg copies of cheap Asian porn videos, and postcards showing the New York skyline were scattered all around. There was also an odd assortment of broken clay pieces mixed in with everything, but they didn't look like any kind of tourist chatchke I knew of. I stepped carefully over the mess and moved closer to Connor.

"What's with all the broken pottery?" I asked. "Did someone drop their kiln?"

Connor shrugged. He looked distracted and there was a shortness when he spoke. "That was already here before the tourists dropped all their stuff. Maybe it has something to do with the ghost. I dunno. I'm too busy trying not to die right now."

"Sorry," I said, "but isn't this a job for Haunts-General? Ghosts aren't really my thing. They give me the stone cold heebie-jeebies. I'm not trained for this."

I eyed Connor's streak again and ran my hand through my own jet-black mop of hair, hoping it wouldn't meet the same fate.

"Don't fall apart on me now, kid," Connor said. "You had all the training sessions."

"Training sessions?" I said. I threw my hands up. "The Enchancellors haven't even covered apparitions with me yet. When I asked one of them about ghosts, they handed me a pamphlet entitled Ten Simple Ways Your Job Will Disfigure You! Nothing I've learned at the Department has trained me to tangle with anything like that. If it gets a hold of me as well, the other investigators will be calling us the Skunk Twins."

"Look," Connor said. "No one from Haunts responded and I was nearby..."

A clatter that sounded like overturning garbage cans interrupted him. I stared into the darkness, but in the pitch black of the alley there might as well have been an entire army of zombies riding in giant zombie tanks. Still, if it was zombies, I had at least read a pamphlet on them.

Connor spoke again, this time his voice dropping to an exasperated whisper. "I just happened to be at the wrong place at the right time, okay, kid? There were all these people standing around, snapping pictures of the damn thing like it's some goddamn movie star, so I start moving in on it. It must have sensed I wasn't afraid of it, because it hauled ass down this alley in the opposite direction, which is what I expected. At that point, I figured it could do one of two things: If it was aware it's a ghost, it'd just pass through an alley wall and I'd have lost it, but if it thinks it's still alive, it would feel cornered when the alley dead-ended. It wouldn't have anywhere to go and I could keep it at bay until Haunts-General showed up."

Something in the shadows moved closer, but I still couldn't make out what it was or even where it was. I felt pretty close to useless.

Connor signaled for me to move farther along the right side of the alley. Since he outranked me in the Department and had a hell of a lot more experience, I complied. Connor crept down the other side of the alley, but kept whispering.

"I didn't expect this phantasm to make a break back up the alley toward me, though. Before I could react, it phased right into me, but I resisted its energy. This spirit isn't acting like anything I've ever encountered before. Something weird is up. Now it's cornered somewhere back here."

Keeping a noncorporeal being from passing through an agent hadn't been covered in any of the assigned reading, handouts, or company e-mails.

"It actually phased through you?" I asked. "What did it feel like?"

The thunderous sound of another trashcan overturning rang out. I jumped, hating myself for reacting like such a noob in front of my mentor. Connor didn't even flinch. He tugged at the white streak in his hair again.

"You don't ever wanna feel it, kid. It felt like someone running electrical current straight through me. It was like a billion fist-sized rocks pummeling my body all at once."

He tugged harder at the strand so he could just barely see the ends of it.

"Nice souvenir of a standard op," he sighed. "As if I didn't feel old enough! Well, at least I'm a White Stripe now."

Saying he felt old was ridiculous. Connor was only ten years older than me, although I don't know how I would have reacted if I'd been striped. Hell, there was still a chance it might happen before the night was through.

"We wrap this up soon," I said, mustering the little bravado I could, "and I'm buying the drinks, ‘kay? Maybe it'll cheer you up… old man."

Connor winced at my words and I started to laugh—but quickly slapped a hand over my mouth. Luckily, Other Division had started me out with a pamphlet entitledWitty Banter to Ease Any Paranormal Situation. In unpredictable and potentially life-threatening circumstances like this, levity really helped an agent concentrate.

"Kid, this job is going to make me old before my time," Connor said.

"Oh, who are you kidding?" I said. "You'll be dead long before you get old! Now, c'mon!"

I took the lead and crept down the alley toward the weird crashing sound. Connor groaned and played catch-up along the opposite wall.

Something very close to me rustled—much closer than I thought it would be.

"Incoming!" I shouted.

Something closer to living fog than human flew out of the darkness toward us, and it was only my foolish vanity that saved me. My hair, I thought, and back-peddled up the alleyway, narrowly escaping the phantasm's touch as a crackle of electricity from its clawlike hands passed inches from my face. The smell of burning ozone filled the air, and I shuffled farther away.

The barest hint of facial features—deep hollow eyes and a gaping mouth that hung low—floated where the creature's head should have been. Its dead eye sockets bordered on hypnotic. This creature craved the life emanating from me—I could feel it—and it surged with great power toward me. No longer concerned about their breakability, I threw my shopping bag full of antiques at the creature, and pulled the retractable bat from my belt. With a click of a button, I extended it and swung wildly, but it did no good.

All I could do was stare. Through the ghostly form, I could see Connor standing directly behind it. He was fumbling something out of his pocket, but I had no idea what it was. I was too busy backing away to care.

As I continued, my foot hit something solid, and my arms pinwheeled as I fell. My ass hit the ground hard, and my palms scraped against the pavement. The wetness of the puddle beneath me soaked through my clothes and the clamminess chilled my skin. I crab-crawled backward as fast as possible but it was no use. This monstrosity was going to overtake me.

I waited for its chilling touch, but instead the overwhelming smell of patchouli oil washed over the area…and the phantasm's smoky form turned from spectral white to reddish brown. It stopped moving and froze in place inches from my face and I wasted no time scuttering out from underneath it. Connor still stood on the other side of it with an empty vial in his right hand. Tendrils of smoke were drifting like a net around the now-still spirit.

He shook the last of the vial over the creature. It wasn't moving, but that didn't make it any less intimidating. Connor stepped closer to examine it.

"I don't get it," he said, stepping back. "It's gone totally feral. Usually when a spirit lingers, the humanity in it begins to stretch, become almost cartoonish. I can barely make out the humanity here. I don't know what would do this to a spirit, what would cause that much degradation. Unless it has something to do with all those broken clay pieces..."

I grabbed one off the ground and handed it to him. He gave it a cursory once-over and slipped it into his pocket.

"Thanks," he said, circling carefully around the phantasm.

"Thanks?!?" I asked. "For what? I should be thanking you!"

"These things feed on fear, kid. And frankly, I'm too seasoned to go all weak in the knees, so I really couldn't get the drop on it all on my own, you know?"

I dusted the filth of the alley off me as I stood and moved to recover my now dirty bag of collectibles from a nearby pile of debris. The bag looked like crap from the outside but I hoped everything in it would look better once I was home. I was soaked through and pissed.

"So what does that make me in all this, exactly?" I shouted at Connor. "Bait? That's it, isn't it? You knew it would scare the crap out of me, feed off that, and totally forget about you, right?"

Connor shrugged and stoppered the empty vial before slipping it back into his pocket. "That's one way of looking at it."

"And what's another?" I fired back.

Connor slapped me on the shoulder, turning all smiles.

"Calm down, kid. You've been an integral part of this operation. It'll look good on your performance record with the Department. Think of it—the Inspectre might even grant you some sort of commendation."

"I'm not here to be your personal worm on the hook," I said, pulling away.

"I'm sorry, kid," Connor said with a hint of sincerity. "Really."

Connor leaned toward me and brushed his hair over his forehead. The new streak of white was even more pronounced now. "Look, I don't like how this went down, kid, or the fact that we're doing Haunts- General's work, but what are we gonna do? With all the budget cuts, Other Division picks up the slack. It's what puts the Extra in the Department of Extraordinary Affairs."

Connor was right and it really wasn't his fault. We were overworked and caught up in the red tape of New York City bureaucracy. I let go of my anger. After all, my hair had been spared. Who was I to complain?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 42 )
Rating Distribution

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(16)

4 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 42 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 29, 2010

    Needed a good editor

    Good premise but the writing is so very weak. Strout strives for John Zakour humor but misses entirely. Ghostsniffing is a ripoff of Tim Powers "Expiration Date". His editors must have been on vacation. There are spelling errors ("peaked" for "piqued"), bad grammar ("This was a much different Irene than the one that had attacked me."), peculiar word choices (Simon orders pints of beer in a New York bar) and a stunning ignorance of nutrition (if Simon is hypoglycemic after using his powers, getting legless on "pints" in Chapter 33 would likely kill him). Two characters are murdered and then vanish except for random inserted sentences. Ditto the strange business with the little clay pots. And what's with the 250 words on the Surrealist movement of the 1920s? Doesn't Strout know that if he wanted a wooden fish in his story it could be a symbol for Jesus or Pisces? Yikes. Cardboard characters run around aimlessly for 35 chapters then Simon saves the day between pages 328 and 342 and the tale ends a few pages later.

    This is not a book for readers who care about style. Harry Dresden or Cal Leandro fans should not touch it even with wards in place.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

    Good start to a new series

    A friend who knew I was a Harry Dresden fan suggested this book to me. Simon Canderous is a likable hero, who possesses a gift which is selectively useful in the quest for Good. I appreciated Strout's use of humor and the fact that the story doesn't take itself too seriously. While the book is likely targeted toward urban fantasy fans, it may also appeal to readers of light crime fiction who might appreciate a supernatural twist. People who find Dresden too fantasy-heavy might find this book more to their liking.
    Now that the characters have been established, it will be interesting to see what Strout does with them in subsequent books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2008

    A reviewer

    I'd really like to recommend the book. The plot is intriguing, a tantalizing peak into urban fantasy. I couldn't get past the writing. Perhaps it is aimed at a young audience. The writing was not crisp it was simplistic. It relied on the use of '-ly' adverbs and telling the reader information instead of describing the scene. I was stopped on page 72 when I encountered 'The smile on his face looked forced, yet diabolical. I made myself disappear against the wall as the two men locked eyes in a struggle for dominance.' I put the book down with 'Wesker's smile fell away and he clenched his fists at his side.' Strong editing of this book would have been beneficial. I'm sorry, it is not worth my time to finish reading the book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Keep it coming!

    I just started these books, they are are a trilogy and remind me a lot of the Dresden Files books, but Simon definitely has his own unique character. The book never gets boring, and Anton Strout will do well if he continues this series. Give it a try, I think you will like it very much. I was plesantly surprised.

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  • Posted September 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Simon is mine!

    I heard about the author in a event, and bought the book out of curiosity... I loved it! Surprising, easy to relate to the characters, and the writing is pretty good as well! :-)

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  • Posted April 28, 2009

    What is up chicago?

    I noticed this cover, just scanning thru, and decided to take a chance. Other than the chicago connection, which has made me want to consider moving there, shared with Dresden, the skinners series, and a few others, it has a feel of realism at a whole nother level. Add in the use of 'gifted' agents, and a creepy realism, and you can really get into this series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2008

    Caught off guard

    I am a serious Dresden Files kind of guy and I was looking for something else to keep my interest. I took a chance on this book as a I was browsing through the sci-fi section at the local bookstore. I was really pleasantly impressed with the story telling and humor. Enjoyable and look forward to the next book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2008

    A reviewer

    Anton Strout provides us with a differnt take on the paranormal/urban fantasy with his reluctant hero Simon Canderous. Working on the RIGHT side of the law, Canderous gets himself in a fair amount of trouble. Not only with the law, but really with everyone including his mentor Connor. Strout's writing stlye is straight from the hip. No flowery flourishes or background porno music for this guy, Strout tells it like it is with a sense of timing and comedic approach, the chutzpa great writers are made of. This is his first novel in the Simon Canderous series and seriously I cannot wait for the next one!! This is a must buy!! Go on get it now.. you know you want to!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2008

    Funny stuff!

    I really loved the humor in this one. In the background you have a great paranormal mystery, sort of like Dresden lite, and the author did a pretty good job of making me laugh at Simon's antics. This is a fun read, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a fresh series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2008

    Fun & Witty Read

    Dead to Me is Anton Strout's first novel and it's a great read. He tells a good story with fun and funny twists and a lot of wit. Simon is a very well-rounded character making it easy to empathize and understand him. There were a few parts that were a little slow, but I honestly believe that we will only see improvements. Anton Strout has talent and style. I cannot wait for the next installment!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2008

    A reviewer

    from page one which was 'in your face' non-stop action, its sets the pace. Chapter one was a delight and I couldn't wait to tell folks. If the whole book is this kind of read, we have a new author to choose from, good luck Anton

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    excellent urban fantasy

    Simon Canderous spent years misusing his psychometric skills to steal. However, he has reformed and now employs his ability to obtain the history of an object by touching it for the Department of Extraordinary Affairs. What he has not learned is patience as working for a bureaucracy has proven frustrating with SOPs, red tape, and fearful nurturing leaders who are CYA conscience with everything needing documentation a zillion times over. Simon accidentally spills his coffee through a female ghost who remains ignorant to the fact that she is dead let alone murdered. He vows to bring her killers to justice. However, he will soon learn how complex his pledge is as he is assaulted by the forces of Darkness who are attracted to him and want him to join them but he is not sure in what precisely and learns more clues from a killer bookcase and a wooden fish. As he gathers information, none of that he obtains seems to get him closer to solving the homicide. --- This excellent urban fantasy stars an interesting lead male who readers meet when his tryst with Tamara goes wrong when she pins him to the bed and starts kissing him until his psychometric skills tell him about her New Orleans encounter she flees from this perverted stalker. Thus the audience immediately learns the down side of the gift, which in turn personalizes and humanizes the hero. The whodunit investigation is fun to follow sort of like an early Dresden so fans should stop at the Lovecraft café for an entertaining paranormal investigative tale. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2011

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    Posted February 22, 2010

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    Posted November 16, 2012

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    Posted April 23, 2010

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    Posted April 18, 2011

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    Posted February 2, 2010

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    Posted April 15, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

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