Imagine that you can not die. That no matter what you did — or did not do — after your final breath, another would come. If this were the case, it might determine the course of your whole life: or what was left of it. And that’s just what Trent has done, working for a gangster doing the sort of jobs that get people killed. Well, most people, anyway. For Trent there is no risk. Every time he dies, he wakes right back up again.

Even so, the business of coming back from the dead isn’t entirely painless. Here, in the opening scene of Dying is My Business (St. Martin’s Griffin), we see the process from Trent’s perspective:

It’s not as easy as it looks to come back from the dead.

It’s a shock to the system, even more than dying is. The first new breath burns like fire. The first new heartbeat is like a sharp, urgent pain. Emerging from darkness like that. the sudden light is blinding, confusing. Coming back from the dead feels less like a miracle than like waking up with the world’s most debilitating hangover.

Depending on your perspective, there are worse things about that process than the pain. Trent himself doesn’t even know how it all works, only that it does. Part of the reason might just be that his own memory only goes back about a year. Everything before that is a big question mark. One thing he does know: the process — whatever it is — is not without cost. In the first place, he can not sleep. Ever. In the second place, someone always has to die. If not him, then someone else and one thing Trent always sees when he comes back from the dead is someone else’s corpse. It doesn’t always make sense — to him, at least — but it is always the case.

When Trent’s boss, Underwood, sends him out on a mission to retrieve an antique box from some squatters in an abandoned warehouse, he thinks it will be a piece of cake. But the “squatters” turn out to be a great deal more than the homeless people they appear to be and Trent finds himself in a mad world of bad magic and evil creatures where he must take part in an almost myth-like battle between good and evil. The only thing that has him even believing his eyes is the oddness in his own history.

As much as I enjoyed Dying is My Business I’ve had an awful time trying to write about it: everything I say makes it sound trite and lame (witness “myth-like battle between good and evil”) and even cliche. The only thing that makes the book move beyond the expected is author Kaufmann’s fine sense of urban fantasy, plus a sharp, dark humor and a pure inventiveness that keeps you wondering just what the hell could happen next.

Dying is My Business is very, very good. And it makes me suspect that there will be more just like it to enjoy some time soon. ◊

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