Three Days to Dead

Kelly Meding (website)
Dell
Mass market paperback, $7.99

Reviewed by Raven

A murdered woman wakes up in the morgue, in a stranger’s body, with three days to figure out who killed her and why. After those three days are up, she’ll be dead for good. With that plot, I couldn’t pass this up. It’s 100% high-concept, as they say in Hollywood. You can hook your audience on the plot with one sentence (okay, maybe two). I got hooked, at any rate.

Blurb:

She’s young, deadly, and hunted—with only three days to solve her own murder…

When Evangeline Stone wakes up naked and bruised on a cold slab at the morgue – in a stranger’s body, with no memory of who she is and how she got there – her troubles are only just beginning.  Before that night, she and the other two members of her Triad were star bounty hunters — mercilessly cleansing the city of the murderous creatures living in the shadows, from vampires to shape-shifters to trolls. Then something terrible happened that not only cost all three of them their lives, but also convinced the city’s other Hunters that Evy was a traitor . . . and she can’t even remember what it was.

Now she’s a fugitive, piecing together her memory, trying to deal some serious justice – and discovering that she has only three days to solve her own murder before the reincarnation spell wears off. Because in three days, Evy will die again – but this time, there’s no second chance…

However, one of the downsides of a high-concept plot is sometimes the book (or movie) ends up being mostly plot-driven, and characters don’t get developed as fully as readers (or viewers) might like. That was the biggest problem I had with Three Days to Dead.

The plot itself was fine. It hit all the right beats in the right places and included a twist I hadn’t predicted to get the characters out of a tight spot near the end (I did predict the subsequent twist on this twist). The story was resolved satisfyingly. But as someone who reads for character, I felt a lack.

Evy Stone, the murdered protagonist, is a bounty hunter who hunts “Dregs,” non-human creatures who would love to replace humanity with themselves. Actually, not all of these creatures are bad, and Evy doesn’t hunt indiscriminately. The novel includes a bunch of supernatural races, some pure evil, others less straightforward. Kelly Meding even manages to get away with elves.

Now, Evy should have been a character I’d enjoy spending time with. I tend to go for dark characters with gray morality and trauma and tragedy in their pasts. It doesn’t get much more traumatic than dead, and I think you could say as a bounty hunter operating on the fringes of society, Evy’s in the gray zone. Granted, she had some strikes against her. She’s a kickass female urban fantasy protagonist, and I’ve kind of had my fill of those. But I went into the novel hoping I’d like her because I liked the novel’s hook so much.

But I had trouble empathizing with Evy. Actually, there was only one character I found myself empathizing with, and he wasn’t major AND he got killed off (it’s not a spoiler since I’m not telling you who he is). The characters served the plot well, but they didn’t give me the emotional connection I was looking for. That made this novel less memorable and engaging than it could have been. Also, if a novel is the first in a series, which this one is, and has a self-contained plot, which this one does, then the main reason I’d go out and buy the next book would be I couldn’t get enough of the characters. If the characters didn’t leave as much of an impression on me as I would have liked, I probably won’t buy the next book (or get it as a review copy).

Of course, not everyone is like me. I’d love to hear from other people on why they continue to buy the books in a series.

My final verdict on Three Days to Dead: For fans of highly plot-driven urban fantasy with a kickass female protagonist, I can recommend Three Days to Dead as a read you’ll probably enjoy. But if you read for character, you might want to browse significant chunks of this novel to make sure Evy’s going to work for you before you commit.