Reaper Madness (Living Dead World #2) by Nessie Strange.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Etopia Press
Date of Publication: November 21, 2014
This isn’t the afterlife she expected…
Jen MacLellan can’t get the hang of being a reaper. She’s been separated from Jack, the man she loves, and is stuck with an annoying telepathic link to her ill-tempered mentor, Sam. Now Death is breathing down her neck, promising to remove that annoying link if she gives him what he wants. But when reapers begin to disappear back on earth, leaving behind walking, talking dead people, Jen and Sam are thrust into a dangerous mission to recapture the souls, and a passionate physical relationship that complicates everything.
Jack Norris has no memory prior to waking up on the half-demon Nulcifer’s couch six months earlier. As he begins to investigate his past, he discovers a string of past lives tied together by a beautiful, mysterious brunette. Who is she? And why does finding her seem like a life or death proposition?
When Sam falls victim to fate during a routine visit to earth, Jen’s devastated. Desperate to get him back, she runs smack into the man she never thought she’d see again—Jack. She tries to keep her distance, but there’s no time to be awkward if they want to save Sam. When sinister plots are revealed, and betrayals threaten everything, she’s forced to make some tough choices—and learns that life is just as difficult when you’re dead.
Nessie is a Massachusetts native and mother of two who has dabbled in everything from abstract painting to freelance sports reporting. She also loves a good story, whether it’s reading or writing one. Living Dead Girl and Reaper Madness, the first two novels in her urban fantasy Living Dead World series, were published by Etopia press in 2014.
Sam wasn’t kidding when he said I had no idea what I was getting into. And now, as I stared Death in the face—literally—from an uncomfortable black leather executive chair, it occurred to me for the first time that I was in way over my head. Between the pinstriped suit and dark, slicked-back hair, he resembled a character from The Godfather more than a deity who ruled over the dead and dying. Death was one scary motherfucker. And he was smiling.
“Care for a drink, Jennifer?”
I shook my head, but he rose anyway, retrieved two glasses from the cabinet behind him, and filled both with amber-colored liquid. “Relax, I’m not going to bite.”
That wasn’t what I was worried about.
“Now, how long have you been with us? About six earth months?”
I cleared my throat. “Ah yes. About that long.”
“I find it intriguing,” he said. “You have been telepathically linked to one of my reapers this entire time, yet you really demonstrate no capability when it comes to this job. One would think that would give you an edge, hmm?”
“You’d think,” I laughed. OK, I sucked at it. It was only recently I’d been allowed to travel back to earth to help retrieve souls. Sam did most of the work, while I trailed behind, like one of those ankle-biting little purse dogs. What I wanted to know was why he’d insisted I do the job in the first place. I’d never asked to be a reaper. It wasn’t like I wanted this.
“The occupation listed from your most recent incarnation on earth was a mortician, was it not? So you should be accustomed to working with the deceased and the sensitivities that go along with it.”
“These two jobs are absolutely nothing alike.” Shit. I’d reacted again, lost my cool because of something he said. Now that my brain had caught up with my mouth, the fire snuffed out and with it went my nerve. I needed to learn to bite my tongue.
Considering the habit crossed over with me from my last life, maybe that was wishful thinking. “Well, I mean, because when I was a mortician, those people didn’t talk back to me.”
Death studied me. “No, I don’t imagine they did.” He scrunched his lips up, his brow furrowed—the only hint of emotion I’d seen from him—but it quickly faded. “What exactly is it that’s holding you back or hanging you up? I’m just trying to understand here.”
“Well, I guess some of it is that I feel bad for them. I want to make things easier, but Sam’s all about scaring them and intimidating and manipulating them. It doesn’t seem right. I mean, we’re their first point of contact with the afterlife; why does it have to be frightening?” I was doing it again. OK, I needed to breathe. “I just… I see the fear in their faces, and it tears at me. It doesn’t feel right. It’s not me.”
“Fear makes them more pliable. Which in turn, makes your job easier when it’s time to collect.”
“But I don’t…”
He held up a hand. “I don’t like excuses, Jennifer. You may not agree with all of the methods you have been taught, but you still need to learn them and be able to utilize all of them. Years down the line, when you actually have some experience, perhaps then you can develop your own strategies. For now, as a rookie in the division without a single reaping under your belt, you are obligated to follow the instruction of your mentor. Do you understand?”
About the Living Dead World series:
When I first started writing Living Dead Girl (book 1), I hadn’t quite planned on sequels, or series. I just had this story in my head that was fighting to get out. It begins with Jen MacLellan, who’s a fairly ordinary young twenty-something woman who happens to have an unusual job: she’s a mortician. She’s kind of going through the motions with life in general–never really challenging herself or venturing out beyond the safe little bubble she’s created. Not to mention, her family takes advantage of her, and her boyfriend doesn’t appreciate her. Basically, she’s stuck in a rut. Then she meets Jack and all that gets turned upside down.
Jack is a musician. He’s a free-spirited, happy-go-lucky type guy. While he’s tattooed and can be a bit of a troublemaker (more of the wise-ass variety) he’s not really what I’d call a typical bad boy. He’s actually a really kind soul. He’s the type of guy who looks out for his friends and the people he cares most about, and with Jen, he finds a partner who has many of the qualities he lacks.
It begins as a hate-to-love, opposites attract type story. The romance between these two builds slowly, but when they do finally get together, their bond grows really strong. They complement each other. Unfortunately, once they find that happiness, tragedy strikes. While it’s harsh, and the things that happen to these characters are terrible, we learn later that this isn’t really the end of things. In this series, death isn’t final–it’s a new beginning.
Living Dead Girl is really a gateway story, because it shows this transition from regular, everyday life to death and what happens after. From book two on, we’re following both Jen and Jack on their journeys through the afterlife. The connections between the characters, as well as their history comes into light, and we learn there is a much bigger picture.
I haven’t decided exactly how many books will be in the series. There will be at least three, leaning more toward four. There is also a book coming from Jack’s POV that begins before and then overlaps some of Living Dead Girl. I look back at when I first started writing Jen’s story, and that first spark of an idea, and I never imagined how complex it would become. I also never imagined how attached I’d become to the characters. It’s funny how that works. Anyway, thank you so much for reading, and I hope you will follow along on Jen and Jack’s journey.