Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly – Trilogy)

While I do a lot of my reading from things that the publishers are kind enough to furnish for me, I also get recommendations from a variety of sources and will eagerly seek out stories that sound interesting to me.  One of my recent library finds was Susan Dennard’s first novel, Something Strange and Deadly.  It’s an enjoyable zombie-filled romp through an alternate Philadelphia.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.”

I was impressed with the character of Eleanor—she’s a high society girl thrust into a situation that would try the strength and will of anybody, and yet she doesn’t turn into a quivering mass of terror as the world goes to hell around her.  The author writes her with great believability, and her reactions are in tune with how I think a sheltered girl would act when confronted with zombies and ghosts.  She’s balanced between the understandable fear and disgust at what she sees and the courage that allows her to seek out her brother no matter what.

I also liked that, despite the location and time period, the author worked in some people of different ethnicities.  I especially liked Jie, the Chinese girl who bucks tradition by dressing in a boy’s clothes and who isn’t afraid to wade into a fight.  And I liked that she wasn’t just a token character, but participates heavily in the story’s action.

The mystery presented in the novel was well written and had some twists and turns that I didn’t expect.  Dennard scattered numerous clues throughout the book that all come together in the last part of the story in a climax that has some truly heart-stopping moments.  There are confrontations in a cemetery and in a massive exhibition hall.  There are explosions and chases and baseball bats wielded in self defense.  If you can’t find something to like in this book, you’re probably reading it with your eyes closed.

This novel is funny and serious by turns, hilarious and hideous in equal measure.  Something Strange and Deadly is a wonderful thrill ride through armies of the dead and the perils of choosing the right dress for an afternoon’s carriage ride.  I’ll be looking for the sequel with anticipation.

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on September 28, 2012.

Series: Something Strange and Deadly
ISBN: 9780062083265
Publisher: Harper Teen
Page Count: 400
Publication Date: July 24, 2012
Acquired: Borrowed from the Yolo County Public Library, Davis branch
Author Website
Read an excerpt