It’s a new month and time for the next installment in The Dead Man series – this entry is entitled The Dead Woman, and it is written by David McAfee. With a new writer to the series, there is also a new voice – or tone if you prefer – to this story. This entry doesn’t have the sly humour or cynicism of the Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin penned entries, nor does it have the spine-tingling style of James Daniels Ring of Knives. Instead it is more intriguing, and reveals a fraction more of ‘The Dead Man’ mythos. It also sets up a plot deviation that could bring quite a bit of fun in future entries … by fun, I of course, mean blood-stained mayhem!
As the story starts, Matthew Cahill steps off a bus in the town of Crawford, Tennessee. From his first moments in the town, as police sirens wail, he can tell that is not going to be all beer and skittles, as there is a serial killer on the loose and the whole town is on edge. But Cahill needs some work to earn some money to put a motel roof over his head and finance his travels as he continues to search for answers and the elusive Mr. Dark.
An advert steers Cahill to Abbey’s Antiques which is run by – funnily enough – a woman named Abbey. Business is bad, and she is closing down and needs a hand to move the inventory to a storage facility. Cahill gets the job and goes to work. Incidentally, Abbey’s mother was the first victim of the serial killer – so as the story moves along, you can be sure that before the end of the story, Cahill is going to find himself face-to-face with the killer.
After a long day of hard physical work, Cahill and Abbey go to a bar for a meal, and as they eat, Cahill spies and man named Brad walking past with a rotting face – which regular readers of the Dead Man series will know means that this gent is about to do something pretty nasty. Further complicating matters, Cahill notices Mr. Dark sitting at the bar.
To Cahill’s mind, there is no doubt that Mr. Dark has ‘infected’ Brad, and no good can come of it, so Cahill chases him out of the bar and follows him to a house – but it’s not Brad’s house. It’s a house where the his wife is shacked up with a another man. And now he is looking for bloody revenge. Matt intervenes. At the end of the siege, Abbey turns up and Cahill is curious to how she found him. She explains that she followed Cahill because she knew that something bad was going to happen. When pressed she reveals that when somebody is going to commit an evil act, she can see their flesh rot – just like Cahill. So she is The Dead Woman to Cahill’s The Dead Man.
Meeting Abbey provides Cahill with a great opportunity to learn more about himself and his condition but before any of this can happen, Abbey’s ex-husband, Dale Everett, who happens to be an extremely jealous police officer starts throwing his weight around, and making Cahill’s stay in Crawford rather unpleasant.
The Dead Woman in some ways is the least action packed of the series. Don’t get me wrong, there are passages of action, and Cahill gets to swing his axe, but this story’s strength lies in different areas. Firstly, there’s a sense of awe and wonder that there is another ‘Dead’ person like Cahill (of course there was Jesse Watson in Ring of Knives, but Watson wasn’t like Cahill). Author David McAfee teases out Abbey’s back story, never fully explaining how she in fact became The Dead Woman.
Next there’s a focus on deception and manipulation – naturally, some of this is perpetrated by Mr. Dark, who has a bigger role in this story – but much of the subterfuge is perpetrated by major and minor characters alike. I’ll refrain from going into this further, who’s doing what to whom, as it would constitute a major spoiler. Some of the twists are easy to spot, and some are not.
For those who are simply after quick thrills, then The Dead Woman could be considered the weakest book in the series. However, if you are a regular reader, then this book is a core book – possibly more important than the second and third stories – as it really delves into what it means to be ‘The Dead Man’ or ‘The Dead Woman’ as the case may be. And as such this insight should prove essential in the ongoing adventures of Cahill.
The Dead Woman is available now from Amazon and the usual outlets.