Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Skeleton Crew by Cameron Haley

Domino Riley is the war leader for the gang leader Shanar Rashan. She is a sorceress. as is Rashan, and since the Seelie Fae took over Hollywood, Domino has been leading the gang, acting as liason with both the Feds from the Department of Homeland Security, and with King Oberon and Queen Titania, because she brokered the deal that got them their turf.

But now something very, very weird is happening. People are dying, but they aren't staying dead. For some reason, their spirits are animating their dead bodies, and returning to feed on the living. Domino, having witnessed the rising of Terence Cole's nephews Antoine and Keshawn, knows that it's not a spell that's raising them, or any kind of supernatural mojo. It's a true mystery as to what is making them come back.

And it's not a disease, either. One of the zombies bites Domino's ear, but she doesn't get infected and get a sudden urge to eat brains. It's just painful as hell. Going into the between, to that place between life and death, she removes the souls from their bodies and meets both a spirit eater, and a ghost hunter who just happens to be a ghost himself, the hunter Abe Warren. Abe isn't particularly enamored of Domino, but he doesn't hate her, either, so after trading some information and a few quips, they part ways.

But Antoine and Keshawn aren't the only zombies rising, and with all the supernatural happenings in L.A., along with the normal murders, accidents and whatnot, the number of zombies start to rise and keep on rising. None of them know why they are coming back, and unlike movie zombies, they are intelligent- at least at first. But their dead bodies run on magic, and when the personal juice of the dead person runs out, they have to feed on the juice of others, killing them and causing them to rise as well.

Soon, the zombie numbers are rising out of control, and apparently, the increase in magic is making magic itself manifest... something. Something that might be a goddess, or might be something that is just the essence of magic itself. But it speaks in riddles, and it talks about what might be causing the rise in zombies all over. The Feds want to nuke the entire area, but that is a last-ditch option, and not one that Domino is very keen on.

But the strange magic force (which the lead scientist of the Feds is calling Hecate, seems to point to a messenger being interfered with. A little investigation leads Domino to a creature called a Xolo, who is responsible, at least in L.A., for the souls of the dead being being separated from their bodies. Xolos or Xoloitxcuintli, are Mexican Hairless Dogs. But not all Mexican Hairless are Xolos. merely the purebred ones, and there aren't many of those left. They are able to cross into the spirit world and tear the soul from the no longer living body, and if they don't do their job, the soul can't leave and will re-animate the body.

The problem is that someone in the between has been catching the Xolos when they cross over, and not letting them go or do their job. And that someone is a big woman in the underworld, a woman named La Calavera who runs a club in the between where she uses the Xolos in dogfights to interest her supernatural customers. Taking part in these fights is driving the Xolos insane, and Domino can't just go into the club- she has to be introduced by someone who is already a member. Someone like... the Burning Man.

But the Burning Man does nothing for free, and he has another little job for Domino, taking out another gang leader who is causing trouble for him. But even if Domino and Adan can take out the other supernatural, are they up to taking out La Calavera to free the Xolos? And will the Xolos be overwhelmed by the over one hundred thousand zombies now roaming the streets of L.A.? And that isn't Domino's only problem, as another gang boss has made a deal with the Foimor and a demon to allow him to summon all sorts of things to L.A.'s mean streets, making them even meaner and more dangerous. And the demon is using the chaos created by the zombies to gain more power from death. But can Domino, even with her allies, return some sanity to the streets?

I like this series a lot, which combines L.A. Street gangs with magic and sorcery. Domino has to pull out all the stops in this one to keep her streets and the people of L.A. safe. At least this time, she's on the side of the angels, something she has always wanted to be. And she keeps on proving what a kick-ass character she is, taking on zombies left right and center, sometimes by herself, and sometimes with others.

But she isn't the only character in this book. Many best-loved characters return, like Adan, this time not a changeling, and her best bud Honey the Piskie, who shares her apartment with her. Also returning are Mrs. Morgan. the ghost, and a host of gang characters, some of whom meet their ends in this book, while others change immeasurably. I love how well-thought out all the characters are. We get to see a Piskie Romance and wedding, while the aftermath shows us how different the fae are from humans. Even Oberon and Titania get some fleshing out, and its as wonderful as it is inhuman.

I'm liking this urban fantasy series a lot, and I enjoy all of the characters, not just Domino, which makes it wonderful and a joy to read. Even while things are going to hell in a handbasket at the speed of light, Domino keeps fighting tenaciously and using her allies to their best effect. I only wonder how things are going to change at the end of this book, and how what has happened here will change not only Domino and the L.A. Scene. This is a wonderful book, a fantastic series, and I will keep repeating that you must read this series. Really wonderful. Highly recommended.

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