‘Killing a Dead Man’ is tagged as a supernatural thriller. While it offers both thrills and chills, it is so much more than that. The story follows guilt-racked teenager, Jordan, who is struggling to come to terms with the murder five years earlier of his Twin, Danny. Unable to find peace, his spirit appears only to Jordan. He cannot see Danny, but knows it is him. This has been going on for years, and Jordan has tried and failed to explain Danny’s manifestation to his parents. They do not believe him and think instead that he is suffering from mental health problems. After a fight at school, which sees Jordan excluded, his mother, now pregnant and almost full term, finds out that Jordan has not been taking his meds. Feeling totally isolated Jordan has hit a wall. It is at this point that Danny reveals that he knows who killed him and needs Jordan to set off in pursuit. Urged on by an agitated Danny, Jordan solicits a ride with rough-and-ready taxi driver, Butch and the two set off on a mystery trip. From there the story enters ever darker and more thrilling territory. Bit by bit, the grumpy, down-at-heal Butch is won over by Jordan and drawn into the adventure, becoming a valued accomplice. The latter part of the story is deeply moving, unexpected, and takes the novel to a thoughtful and philosophical conclusion.
Hodges has written a hugely engaging and enjoyable book. Her characters are expertly crafted and although the story involves the supernatural, it is both essential and, given the depth of the emotion, credible. The novel is well plotted, paced, and beautifully written. You cannot help but feel for fifteen-year-old Jordan at odds with adults too caught up in their own lives and prejudices to understand him. His seemingly reckless behaviour feels right given the guilt and pressure he is under. Most of all it is his philosophical journey, carefully driven by his dead brother, that brings salvation and closure. The other principal character, taxi driver Butch, is a magnificent creation, and I thought it was clever of Hodges to balance him against Jordan.
The story is compelling, easy reading, exciting, and although it is, in theory, aimed at young adults I’d say all those who like a good, fast-paced and unusual narrative would love reading it as much as I did, which was a lot!
I can see this on TV or film and I hope that the author is busy writing more, and is one to watch out for. Highly recommended and 5/5 stars.
– Tim Wickenden