Friday, September 1, 2017

Death Knows My Name: social commentary through the eyes of a demon - a novel by Kellie Wallace

Greetings, Commies, Aussies and Yankees!

Today's recurring guest is Kellie Wallace, a young Australian author of numerous historical, dystopian, YA and cross genre novels. Her latest release is a paranormal thriller with strong romantic and philosophical elements Death Knows My Name.

After the tragic drowning of her brother eighteen years ago, Aleida Fuller has lived her life communicating with the supernatural. She can see and speak to the dead, as if they were still walking the earth. Despite being welcomed in the spirit world, Aleida lives a closeted existence. Her reclusive mother refuses to accept her abilities and the local townsfolk think she’s a fraud.

When mysterious traveler Rafe Jenner arrives in town, Aleida’s dull life is irrevocably changed. He’s handsome, strange, and oddly alluring, with piercing eyes that turn red in the dark…

As Aleida and Rafe are teamed up to solve a crime for the Sheriff’s Office, a great evil lurks in the shadows. Bloodthirsty for Aleida’s soul, Hell-bound demon Albinus roams the earth, shedding blood and taking lives in search of her. He will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants. Aleida must draw on her physic abilities and her new-found alliance with Rafe to battle Hell’s agents before her soul is lost forever.

My thoughts:
One of the most captivating parts about this novel is the philosophical / existential component. Rafe, a jaded soul-snatcher who has been around the block a few times, struggles to keep his red eyes from rolling as he watches the decay of the human race. He notes that in the past century people have gotten fatter and dumber - and more skittish and squeamish around the subject of death. At the same time, he eats the same "dumb American food". He is not above having whipped cream on his pancakes. I guess his supernatural body does not metabolize carbs and fat the same way a human body would. Oh wait, moving from one body to another, changing hosts every century or so, is taking its toll on Rafe's supernatural essence. He is starting to feel more and more human. (The premise of the novel will remind you of an acclaimed indie film "In Her Skin" starring Scarlet Johansson, featuring the predatory wanderings of an otherworldly entity that entices and gobbles up lonely men).

It is not surprising that Rafe's unlikely human ally is Aleida Fuller, a young woman burdened by the disturbing gift of communicating with the dead, the gift she had developed following her younger brother's drowning death. Aleida seems to have achieved a sort of philosophical acceptance of her gift and her place in the world. Naturally, she cannot keep that gift to herself - it makes her too useful in investigations. It also makes her a great target for exploitation. Who would not want a girl like that on their side? Personally, I find it refreshing that Aleida has no qualms about milking her gift. She does not get all high and mighty about having a "special mission". She is not above offering her services to bachelor parties and Halloween seances, just as Rafe is not above eating American diner food. That self-deprecating humility is what makes them such suitable allies.

One thing I wanted to mentions is that even though the author is Australian, most of her novels are set in America. She is very familiar with American pop culture and everyday practices. It's not unusual for Australians to romanticize Americans - and vice versa. I commend the author on writing yet another thrilling, witty, philosophically challenging novel.

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