At the Behest of the Dead by Timothy W Long

At the Behest of the Dead book cover
Rating 6.9/10
An okay start to a new urban fantasy series.

At the Behest of the Dead by Timothy W. Long is a solid urban fantasy, not the best I've read, but far from the worst. If you like the Dresden Files, Iron Druid Chronicles, or the Demon Squad series, you will probably find some enjoyment with this story.

The story follows Phineas Cavanaugh, a necromancer who makes a living working as a supernatural private investigator (big Dresden vibe here). Being a necromancer gives Cavanaugh the type of edge that other PI's and law enforcers could only dream of. Cavanaugh is hired to solve a run-of-the-mill murder, but things go from normal to bad to worse as dark forces come in to play. The threads of this investigation run deep, all the way down to Hell, and the consequences of failure will likely be catastrophic.

Long delivers a complex and intricate story here, and I really enjoyed how it played out. The plotting was often murky and at times it was hard to keep track of where I was and what was happening, but there was always something interesting going on. The ending was pretty cool, and I can see that Long has really set things up for a lengthy episodic series.

The style of writing is very much a hard-boiled detective, with a few noir influences and some snarky humour. The detective and noir stuff is pretty good, but the snarky humour rarely connected for me. It felt too... vanilla? Maybe it's just that other urban fantasy books have trained me to only laugh at the outrageous and the offensive. The world building and magic were great, and Long obviously put a lot of time into crafting these elements. The individual elements aren't all that original, but Long combines them effectively to craft out his own distinct stuff.
Where this story fell down for me was the characters. I found it hard to connect with Phineas and his plight, and I found it hard to differentiate between the rest of the characters. This is kind of exacerbated by the large amount of dialogue that is used - during the rapid fire exchanges I just couldn't tell who Phineas was talking to. It's a shame, I can see that Long has gone to a lot of effort crafting his characters, and I really wanted to like them, but I would be lying if I said that I did.

At the Behest of the Dead is an okay start to a new series. There are a number of issues, but there is also plenty to like. By the end the book the author had really found his feet, and I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that the next book will be a lot better.

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