Review: Play Dead

Posted February 23, 2011 by Jen in 4 stars, Rating A, Urban Fantasy Tags: ,

Play Dead
Author: John Levitt  
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group
Dog Days Series Book 4
ISBN: # 978-0441019649
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format(s): paperback (304 pgs), ebook
I received a copy of this book from the PUBLISHER for the purposes of an honest review.
From the author’s website:
Mason used to be an enforcer, ensuring that those magic practitioners without a moral compass walked the straight and narrow. But now he just wants to keep his head down, play guitar, and maintain a low profile with Lou, his magical canine companion. But Mason is down on his luck, and when a job with a large payout comes along, he finds the offer hard to resist-not knowing it might mean sacrificing what both man and his best friend hold most dear.
Jessica Alexander, a practitioner of dark magic, tasks Mason with finding a missing woman and supposed thief. But the case leads to a bigger mystery involving an ancient spell book that can open paths to different worlds—something most practitioners would kill to possess. Mason and Lou are determined to keep the spell book out of the wrong hands, but that could mean sacrificing what both man and his best friend hold most dear…
What B is talking about:
Mason is sort of an underachiever in the magical practitioner community of San Francisco. He plays Jazz guitar, works as an “enforcer” reigning in rogue black arts practitioners to help pay the rent, and has his best friend Lou (an Ifrit) by his side. Things could be worse. When he’s hired by Jessica Alexander, a black practitioner herself, to track down a young woman who’s stolen something important from her, things get substantially worse, and very quickly.
Play Dead is the fourth novel in the Dog Days series, but it was fairly easy to jump into the story. Each novel appears to keep the same cast of characters, for the most part, and follow each particular conflict to its resolution. Levitt does a good job weaving necessary background information in with the action and introductions, making the novel a relatively successful stand-alone. 
I really liked Mason. He’s smart, and gifted, but is in no way the golden boy of the novel. He makes a lot of mistakes, ones that cost his fellow practitioners a lot of trouble, and gets in more than a few difficult situations from which he himself requires rescuing on occasion. He faces black magic, a variety creatures (some deadly, some not) that shouldn’t exist in our world, and catastrophic dimensional rifts with a certain implausible air of resolute acceptance, however. At least until the very end, when he realizes that although the battle may be won, the casualties may be too high a price to pay. Still, he and Lou are a great team, with a lot of charm, genuine kindness, which borders on naivety, and a commendable determination to see the task he’s undertaken through to the end. 
I admit I didn’t see the end of this one coming, which was nice. Sometimes the twists and turns got a bit exhaustive, and the descriptions of the spells Mason uses, while interesting, slow down the momentum of the novel. Without them, though, I believe I’d have been lost, and might have felt too much like an unwelcome observer.
Although it is certainly not a Romance, I enjoyed Play Dead a great deal. It’s full of well-played humor that’s more subtle than outright schticky, and Mason is just the right balance of flawed hero that he’s at once frustrating, yet affectionately endearing at the same time. Levitt has crafted a successful whodunit, burying the clues throughout the deepening layers of the novel, only becoming obvious at the very end. I nearly smacked myself in the head at the resolution of the novel, but really… I sort of wish I could smack Mason instead.
B’s Rating: 
Really enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)

5 responses to “Review: Play Dead

  1. Great review, B! It’s refreshing to find the male protagonist to be flawed and that his short comings are highlighted. Usually it’s just the women that get that spotlight. This series looks intriguing, I might have to look for it at my library.

  2. B.

    Thank you! I’m really interested to read the first novel in the series, too. I’d love to know what those who read it think. 🙂