The Wrong Dead Guy (Another Coop Heist)
by Richard Kadrey
Cover Artist: Owen Corrigan
Review by Wes Breazeale
Harper Voyager Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062389572
Date: 28 February 2017 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Richard Kadrey is a prolific author, averaging at least one novel a year--and sometimes two--for nearly a decade. He found great success, and a solid following, with is Sandman Slim series. Perhaps feeling painted into a corner with the dark humor that he established for those books, in 2016 he wrote the first book in a new series, The Everything Box. The Everything Box was a sunnier take on urban fantasy for Kadrey, less tormented soul and more tormented puns. Coop, the hero of the new series, is a pop culture referencing, joke making thief, but fortunately (for him) not someone who spends considerable amount of time in Hell.
Unless by Hell you mean an 9-to-5 job in an office, which is exactly where he finds himself at the start of Kadrey's latest, The Wrong Dead Guy. Now officially part of DOPS, the Department of Peculiar Science, Coop finds himself dealing with the mundane as well as the peculiar. From stealing office supplies to dealing with revenge minded mailroom clerks, office hijinks are in full swing. And of course, one of his main jobs is to steal things that need stealing. In this case, a mummy from a local museum that DOPS needs for unknowable reasons.
Assembling his team, including his magical girlfriend, Giselle, his thief friend Morty, and an expert on Egyptian antiquities who just happens to be an image of a cat trapped in a TV mounted on a robotic octopus. Yes, you read that right.
As you would expect, things do not go as expected. The mummy is not quite as dead as anticipated and the magic it uses is not something that DOPS is prepared to counter. And, having been cursed by said mummy, Coop is left to swing in the wind by his bosses, in hopes that he might be able to solve their problem on his own.
One of Kadrey's strengths as an author is an abundance of creative, often amusing, ideas. For the most part he is usually able to synthesize these ideas and incorporate them into an exciting, funny, and fast paced story. Unfortunately, in the case of The Wrong Dead Guy, his efforts seem disjointed and disorganized. It feels as if Kadrey had a great idea for a scene or two, or for an amusing new character, and then tried to figure out a way to ensure that that those scenes and characters made it to the finished book--even if they didn't necessarily fit that well in the overall story. In addition, he has several storylines that get strung along for far too long simply because they are necessary to reach that ultimate scene, but they don't really add much to the overall enjoyment of the book.
The Wrong Dead Guy is still fast paced and still funny at times, but it just doesn't feel complete or well edited. It reads like how an episode of Saturday Night Live often plays out--a few strong highlights, a few bits that are okay but go on too long, and a few sections that perhaps should have been on the cutting room floor.
And while The Wrong Dead Guy is disappointing, it disappoints in the way that certain episodes of favorite TV shows may be disappointing. They may not be the ones that get collected on a greatest hits DVD, but you'll still come back for more. Kadrey has certainly created another world that his fans will want to return to, and one can only hope that he'll have streamlined things just a bit for the next go-round. I'll certainly be tuning in to find out!