The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…
Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—
The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.
And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.
Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.
When I first requested Something Strange and Deadly, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Zombies aren’t normally my thing, but there was something about the summary that piqued my interest. For me, the big draw was the promise of a mystery – a missing brother – set against the historic backdrop of the 1876 Centennial Exposition, or Philadelphia World’s Fair. Once I started reading, it was the creepy atmosphere that kept me quickly turning pages (or clicking the arrow on my Kindle), even though I was fairly certain I had some of the plot figured out well beforehand. It didn’t hurt that the main character, Miss Eleanor Fitt, was an absolutely feisty heroine. Between her and the setting, I found this book very difficult to put down.
The book starts off with a bang – or rather, a clang – when the Dead alarms go off, and Eleanor comes face-to-face with a member of the Dead (i.e. zombies), who happens to be delivering a letter from her brother, Elijah. Eleanor is convinced that Elijah is being held against his will by the Necromancer, and contacts the Spirit-Hunters for help. Through a bit of start and stopping, she finally convinces them to assist her in finding her brother. It was at this point that the book really took off, because the danger of the Dead, not to mention the bits of intrigue surrounding her father’s death that are being dropped piece by piece into the story, really drive the stakes up.
Throughout the ensuing run-ins with the Dead, we really get to see Eleanor become a very strong, capable woman who gets sick of always doing what society deems proper, and finally doing what she feels is right. This includes confronting her suitor, the dashing and very rich Clarence Wilcox, about his odd behavior, and cutting out on a date with said suitor to cross-dress and help the Spirit-Hunters with a task. Add to that the slow-burning romance between Eleanor and Daniel, one of the Spirit-Hunters with his own painful backstory, and I was completely taken in by the story.
While I figured out much of the mystery early on, it didn’t end up mattering because I found Eleanor’s character to be so well-written and developed, and couldn’t help cheering her on. And there was enough twist at the end to make sure I hadn’t figured out everything, as well as an achy-breaky ending that left my heart hurting a bit. There’s definitely some set-up for the second book, but I was very satisfied with the way things ended here.
All in all, I found Something Strange and Deadly to be a thoroughly engrossing, utterly engaging read, with a fabulous main character and wonderful historical flourishes. Fans of steampunk and zombies will enjoy the atmosphere, while fans of everything else will love Eleanor and the characters that surround her (this has a really first-rate cast of supporting characters), with the one exception of her mother, who is really something else. Something Strange and Deadly will be released in North America on July 24, 2012. I’d definitely recommend you check it out.
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.