How to be Death is the fourth Calliope Reaper-Jones Novel by Amber Benson. The first three concluded the main story of Calliope. This novel is not a stand-alone book it’s a sequel rather than a continuation. I recommend reading the first three books before you pick up this one.
I’m only going to be reviewing this book on its own, not the whole series.
Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.
If you’ve read the first three books, you know the core cast of characters. They do evolve a little but this is more about expanding the world of Death and the secondary characters that inhabit it.
That being said the characters are well written and for a murder mystery that is extremely important.
I have a terrible memory. It took me re-watching all the Marvel super hero movies to remember whom agent Colson was in the Avengers. When I watch a reality TV show, I’m continually asking my wife who each person is. In a murder mystery, for me, it’s important that the characters stand out and are memorable. Benson manages to introduce nearly a dozen characters and I never once had to go back to the beginning to see who they were.
In her earlier books, I found that Calliope regressed at the beginning of every book. In this one she hadn’t and that was nice. There are also some really interesting character revelations in this book that I look forward to her exploring in future books.
For creating characters that were clear and easy to follow, along with interesting I give it a 4 out of 5 for characters.
A first person narrative’s writing style is dependant on the character’s voice. All of the Colliope Reaper-Jones books are written in first person, and follow Calliope. She is a mildly narcissistic, fashionista, with a huge victim complex.
When she stops whining and starts acting, she is a wonderful person. In between she complains and whines about everything. In this novel, she’s toned down the whininess and started taking responsibility.
All this to say that the writing style is extremely casual, even for first person, and at times a little shocking.
Benson does everything that a good author has to do to balance a self-involved character with a good narrative. She makes sure that the reader understands things that the main character doesn’t, she makes sure that the character doesn’t cross the line between frustrating and hated, and most importantly she keeps interest in parts that could easily lose a reader.
Speaking as a man, a lot of the shoe, and fashion stuff didn’t interest me. Benson manages to avoid overdoing it and I think I might have learnt a few things. Apparently Steve Madden isn’t just a line of NFL video games.
For writing style, I give this novel a 3 out of 5.
The story structure of a good murder mystery is usually split into three acts. The first act introduces all the characters and defines them. The second act starts with a Murder, which is followed by multiple interviews, clues, and sometimes one or two more murders. In act three something shocking happens, either another murder, theft etc. Followed by either a blind plan (In which only a few characters know what’s happening) or some action (Usually a chase) and finally excessive amounts of exposition. Incidentally, a survival horror or slasher share the same first two acts. A great way to tell the difference is to see if there’s a detective which indicates a mystery, or if the body count is over 40% at the end of act 2 which indicates the horror story.
I found the story took a chapter or two too long before the first murder. It could be me but I was looking forward to a lengthy act 2 with all kinds of hi-jinks and it made act 1 feel a little slow. I also think the exposition was rushed. It could have been done longer and in two scenes instead of what felt to me to be too quick.
The story was good, the structure could have been better, I give it a 3 out of 5.
This book is a continuation of a series that I greatly enjoyed. They are fun. The book is a departure from the story structure of the other three but I think it works towards the books advantage. I like the banter and enjoy the characters.
This book is more fun than you’d expect. It’s a nice twist on a supernatural murder mystery. For fun I give it a 4 out of five.
There are book and series that I plan to never read again. No matter how amazing they are I just don’t want to relive them. This isn’t one if those series.
The Calliope Reaper-Jones Series is one series that I look forward to
re-reading. Amber Benson is one of a small group of authors whom I will buy their new books as soon as they come out.
If you like Urban Fantasy that’s a little light on the doom and gloom, read this series.
I give it a total score of 70%