Necropolis PD by Nathan Sumsion (book review).
The information that came with the review copy says of ‘Necropolis PD’: ‘It’s the debut novel of Nathan Sumsion, a game designer from Round Rock, TX and Salt Lake City, UT.’ Now this could be a good thing or a bad thing as I have read far too many poor books based on video games than is really healthy. I’m glad to say in this case it is a good thing!
The press release goes on to say ‘Necropolis PD mixes the old-fashioned styling of a noir murder mystery with a fantastical Burton-esque world of the afterlife. With a fresh new take on crime thrillers mixing in a touch of the macabre, Necropolis PD is a novel as unique as it is entertaining.’
I don’t usually refer to the press release so much but just this once I think they have hit the nail on the head and got it right. Where I do disagree with them though is the statement ‘Necropolis PD is a novel that begins with a question; how do you solve a murder in the city of the dead? This question comes up later as our hero, Jacob Green, has got to find his way to Necropolis first.
Jacob Green is an art college student who is late for class one day and comes across a road accident on his way to the college campus. Being young and naïve, he stops to see if he can help which is probably the worst decision he has ever made. At first, he thinks someone is trying to help the female driver as the door is open and the stranger appears to be doing something not very helpful at all. It then occurs to young Jacob that all might not be well here, so he shouts and the stranger runs away with Jacob in hot pursuit.
In following the stranger, Jacob eventually finds his way to the city of Meridian which is also known as Necropolis. It’s a city composed of forgotten pieces of the real world pulled together and shut off from mere mortals. Its inhabitants are, generally speaking, dead with the one exception being Jacob Green. Many of the inhabitants want to correct this anomaly with the preferred way being to eat Jacob.
What is keeping Jacob alive is Detective Marsh of the Necropolis Police Department. He’s been tasked with the job of keeping Jacob alive to answer a few questions by Police Captain Radu. The process of asking questions involves quite a lot of pain and discomfort at least for Jacob. Luckily for him, there is something about him that intrigues Captain Radu. He might just have the extra quality they need to solve a new perplexing case. Someone or thing has been killing the good people of Meridian.
When I say killing, I mean that their souls are being displaced from their already dead bodies. The dead are alive and well in Meridian by sheer force of will power. These people died but were of such strong character that they just carried on regardless. Admittedly, not all of them were able to maintain corporal bodies and so they became ghosts. They still qualify as residents though.
It seems that someone has been attacking these people and quite literally breaking their will, so they finally pass over to the other side. As the current squad of Necropolis PD detectives have not been able to progress the case, Captain Radu enlists Jacob to help. Of course, there is slightly more to Jacob than even Jacob realises which might just give him the edge but will most certainly mean that just about everyone in Meridian will want to kill him even more than they do already.
I have to admit that ‘Necropolis PD’ was slow to start. I think I was 20% of the way in to the book (you don’t always get page numbers on ebooks) before the real story took form. The first few chapters covers Jacob’s accidental journey into Meridian and interrogation by Detective Marsh. He also spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself. While this is understandable, it does slow things down for a while.
Once Jacob is enrolled as a detective and starts to work on the case, the story really takes off. There’s some dark humour to be found here amongst all the dead and decaying people. The author throws in some excellent touches such as Jacob being assigned a ghost as police liaison officer. There’s also a troupe of actors that specialise in playing live people. It is a strange and compelling place Meridian.
Don’t be fooled by the dark humour and strange environment though. ‘Necropolis PD’ is a detective novel and there is a case to solve. There are a few red herrings and plot twists to make it harder to figure out what’s going on before the author wants us to know.
I know it is a debut novel but,, apart from the slow beginning, it is very well-written. It was one of those books where once it gets going you can’t put it down and actually start caring for the characters even though most of them are on the dead side. The story concludes with a good satisfying ending. I do hope the author, Nathan Sumsion, is typing up another episode of ‘Necropolis PD’ as he might just have struck gold with this. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.
(pub: Parvus Press, 2019. 408 page ebook. Price: £6.02 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-9997842-2-8)
check out website: www.ParvusPress.com/npd