"Deep Down" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Tor Books
Written by Deborah Coates
2013, 304 pages, Fiction
Released on March 5th, 2013
Everyone who reads has a favorite author. Even people that don't read on a regular basis may still faithfully pick up the newest Stephen King novel upon release, and his might very well be the only books they ingest. Those of us that always have a book in hand generally have a list of go-to writers that we turn to in those times of "what do I read now?" Mine are many, including Brian Keene, Gary Braunbeck, J.F. Gonzalez, Lee Child, Robert Crais, and Joe Lansdale (just to name a very small few). The problem becomes, though, is that moment you are in between books, deciding what to tear into next, and you've read all the works of your stable of favorites. On those rare occasions when you find someone whose work is so good, someone who is new to you no less, it's quite a delight. Such is the case with Deborah Coates and her novel Deep Down.
After dying for a brief period of time during her service in Iraq, Hallie Michaels gained the ability to see ghosts and other supernatural beings. When she checks in on one of her neighbors, Pabby, at the request of Pabby's son, she finds that numerous black dogs have made themselves at home just on the outside edge of the elderly lady's property line. Pabby seems surprised that Hallie can see the dogs (as she thought she was the only one who could). If that wasn't enough of a clue for Hallie that this was an odd situation, the dog that starts talking to her pretty much seals the deal.
Turns out the dogs are harbingers of death and tend to show up right before the reaper. Apparently, it's Pabby's time to take that trip to across the rainbow bridge, but due to some precautions taken years prior, the reaper can't cross onto her property to finalize the deal. Pabby swears to Hallie that it's not her time, and she asks her to look into what's going on. Hallie reluctantly agrees, and finds that there is much more going on in her small town than just reapers and black dogs.
It's hard for me to find the words to express how much I truly enjoyed Deep Down. With this being only her second book, Deborah Coates is already showing she is not just a born storyteller, but she has a prose that rivals many authors who have been publishing works for years. Her voice is that of someone influenced by the great Joe Lansdale but with the snarkyness of Janet Evanovich. The best part of her style is that it feels like she is in the room telling you the story as opposed to you reading it, it is that conversational. It's like reading an Elmore Leonard novel with a supernatural element. For example, Hallie heads to a restaurant to question a waitress (who is rumored to have a gift herself):
"Cleary's was both a restaurant and a bar. The restaurant side only served lunch until two, but Hallie knew a person could get a burger and fries or a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich anytime on the bar side. She hadn't had anything to eat since an early breakfast and she was starving, figured she could accomplish two things at once: lunch and answers."
If there's one thing that bothered me about Deep Down it's the fact that it is constantly referencing things that must have happened in Coates' first novel Wide Open. This is a bit frustrating because I have this gnawing suspicion that the ending may have been ruined for me by reading this book. Clearly Deep Down takes place in the same universe as Wide Open, going as far as to use some of the apparent key locations from that first book. However, as someone who is yet to read Coate's freshman novel, I have to wonder how much of the referencing was necessary. This may not be a problem to those who have already read Wide Open, but it's a bit detrimental to new readers. However, while this does bother me because of my intentions to read Wide Open (I already have it), I chalk this up to Coates relative inexperience. And that in itself is rather impressive. If this is my only beef with Deep Down, I can only imagine what she's going to be capable of with further works.
If you are a fan of the folksy storytelling style of the like of Joe Lansdale, pick this up. If you are a fan of the snarky wit of the likes of Janet Evanovich and Elmore Leonard, pick this up. If you are looking to check out a new author with a tremendous amount of potential, definitely pick this up. Just make sure to read Wide Open first. I can't vouch for that one as I have not yet read it, but if Deep Down is any indication of what Deborah Coates is capable of, you can't go wrong.