“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country
“A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept.”― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Delacruz lives as an enigma. Well, half-lives. You see, when the New York Council of the Dead brought him back, they literally did a half-assed job. With only the faintest memory of having suffered horribly, the rest of his life before his half-resurrection is a blank. He thinks he is Puerto Rican (well, at least that is what they told him – and he has to admit, it does feel right) but other than that? His life began on the day he died.
Now Carlos works for the council, taking care of the unseen of New York, the maybe-sorta-might-be-dead and others collectively known as the inbetweeners, making them really dead with the sword concealed in his cane. Hey, it may not be much of a life, but it’s his. He gets his fun from pissing off the council members whenever possible, and he has a few close friends – even if most of them are ghosts. It is difficult, being so alone, so different. As far as he knows, he is one of a kind, the only inbetweener he knows of who exists in this half-resurrected state.
But that is about to change, because there really are more like him. And they are determined to take down the wall between life and death, to open the entrada to the Underworld.
I listened to Half-Resurrection Blues, which is narrated by the author, Daniel José Older. His delivery is, in a word, musical. The story caresses the ear in a flow of lightly Puerto Rican accented English with a Brooklyn tone that carries the soulful cadence of a Blind Willie Johnson tune. I would compare his writing to one of my absolute favorites, James Lee Burke (and if I did that, you know I enjoyed it), in setting a tempo that draws you into the life of not only a man lost in pain and loneliness, but also into the attitude and rhythms of the Brooklyn Barrio. The imagery is knife sharp, cutting away artifice and revealing the soul of the character, and of the world in which he lives.
Carlos is sarcastic, with a biting humor that often takes a moment to comprehend, something I totally enjoyed. He is the perfect noir hero, Malaguena cigar tucked firmly between his lips, sharply dressed, calm and collected. He strolls the barrio, sliding between the worlds of the living and the dead, always calm, cool and collected. The perfect Puerto Rican don, hat pulled low and shoes shined. The people he knows, and the people he meets, though some cannot really be called “people” any longer – they are ghosts, trapped in the world of the here-and-now – have their own quirks, worries, and existences, often beyond even Carlos’ comprehension.
Mr. Older’s story offers that edge of heartbreak and loneliness that gives his characters depth, while his own voice is the perfect vehicle for the narration. I loved it, and will be reading the others in the series.