Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure. He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business. Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her Targets like a natural born Killer. Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in? (synopsis from Goodreads)
Croak is the first novel in a new series by debut author Gina Damico. I was immediately drawn to the cover of Croak. I love tales involving reapers and knew I had to read this. Damico offers us a fresh urban fantasy filled with mystery, suspense and a secret society of reapers. This novel is hilarious, perfectly paced, and highly entertaining.
The tale begins with sixteen year old Lex Bartleby in the principal’s office. She is there, yet again for sucker-punching a classmate. Her parents are exasperated but manage to persuade the school from suspending her. Lex was a straight A student, but recently has been having violent outbursts, stealing and has been cursing up a blue streak. Her parents and sister don’t understand why she is so angry and quite frankly they seem terrified of her. When they get home, they inform her she will be spending the summer on her Uncle Mort’s farm. The next day they force her on a bus and seemed relieved. When she meets her Uncle Mort, Lex is ready to turn tail and run. He is riding a motorcycle, has tattoos and purple streaks in his hair. Lex is about to learn that the town of Croak is filled with reapers and that she is a reaper. The tale that unfolds is magical, fresh, funny and unique. I consumed this as Damico quickly swept me away to the town of Croak and its inhabitants.
The characters in Croak are all unique and certainly fall under the category of misfits. With the exception of Lex, all the reapers in training were essentially abused or abandoned by their parents, so you can imagine the personalities. Lex is feisty, extremely sarcastic and has a chip on her shoulder a mile wide. I didn’t love her, but she grew on me. Despite her attitude, she is good at reaping, and at her core is a good person. Uncle Mort is a giant kid, with huge responsibilities and I liked him. Driggs is Lex’s partner and he was both irresistible and irritating. Together they make the perfect team and you cannot help but fall in love with this duo. There is a romance here, and an implied love scene. The other characters offer us many different personalities from the geek to the jealous overachiever. All of them, and Damico’s light approach made for some funny moments.
The world-building was unique and I love the little town of Croak. Damico does an excellent job of explaining the reaper town and similar towns scattered across the world. Her imagination in how reapers teleport and find those who have just died was impressive. Her use of technology and animals was unlike anything I have ever read. I loved the transportation system for souls and laughed at what occurred when the souls arrived. Damico writing is well paced and the plot progressed well. The added mystery, murders and suspense kept me highly entertained as I tried to determine who was responsible. While the mystery was solved, this tale is far from over and I look forward to the next installment.
I highly recommend Croak to fans of light, funny urban fantasy. If you are a reaper fan like me, this book is definitely for you. I have added this author to my watch list and will pre-order Scorch, book two in the Croak series, which will be published September 25, 2012.
I gave this novel 4 coffee cups out of 5
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