Call it horror. Call it fantasy, or even a supernatural mystery. But, Deborah Coates' Deep Down has to be called riveting and powerful.
In Wide Open, Coates introduced Hallie Michaels, a twenty-three-year-old Afghanistan war veteran who returned home to South Dakota after her sister's death. And, after her own death. Hallie was dead for seven minutes in Afghanistan before she was resuscitated. And, afterward, she could see ghosts.
That doesn't mean she's prepared for the events of Deep Down. Hallie is antsy, and doesn't know if she should stay at her father's ranch, although she's developed strong feelings for Deputy Boyd Davies. They're two of a kind, touched by something not of this world. While Hallie can see ghosts, Boyd's dreams of the future can come true. And, then even normal life starts to unravel when Hallie stops in to check on a neighbor. At Pabby's, Hallie finds black dogs surrounding the yard. They can't cross the iron bars that were placed in a circle around the yard years earlier. Pabby and others warn Hallie that the black dogs are harbingers of death. But, Pabby knows it's not her time yet. And, one of the dogs finds Hallie fascinating.
And, then Hallie comes across an accident. She's the first one on the scene, and Boyd responds to the call. But, what Hallie and Boyd sees is an accident that happened seven years earlier, in Iowa, when Boyd's wife was killed. And, the man who died in the truck that day, Travis Hollowell, was there, demanding that she ask Boyd about his wife. When Boyd responds by leaving town on a search, Hallie is left to deal with the turmoil. The black dogs mean a reaper is coming to take someone. Hollowell continues to haunt Hallie with accidents, people are disappearing, and, finally Death appears. Just a normal couple days in Hallie Michaels' life, "Or as close to normal as someone who has been blown up, attacked by a reaper, and has talked to Death could feel." Even then, it's not over. Boyd's return means the attacks get stronger, until Hallie is forced to follow a black dog into Death's realm in order to return the world to normal.
Deep Down is a powerful, unforgettable story. Every scene is vivid, and there's non-stop action, fueled by desperation. Hallie Michaels is the linchpin to this story, a remarkable character. She's a little lost, not knowing her next role after leaving the army. But, she's strong, honest, angry, and determined to take care of the people she loves. She knows it's important that there be a line between the living and the dead. When that line gets too thin, she'll go to hell and back to make things right. "Black dogs and reapers and now Death. Yeah, her life wasn't weird at all."
It's hard to forget Hallie Michaels and her unsettled world. And, it will be equally hard to forget one of the black dogs. Coates is a superb storyteller, sucking the reader in, and never letting go. Fantasy? Horror? Whatever you want to call Deborah Coates' books, Wide Open, and now Deep Down, they're worth reading.
Note: Coates' first book in the series, Wide Open, is a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
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My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.