Autumn-leaves 1

Yuletide book rec: Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian Vande Velde

... okay, seriously, I gotta get on this Yuletide thing, if I'm going to do it this year. Signups close tonight!

One of the things I wanted to do before I get my letter up was post recs for the more obscure books I'm requesting, since it looks like most (all?) of my requests this year are for book fandoms, and hey, if I liked them, maybe you will like them too! And maybe I'll have more people to talk to them about!

Let's start with Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian Vande Velde. It's recently back in print ... with an absolutely terrible cover. The cover on the older edition was a bit young for the book itself, but at least it was cute and generally fairly accurate to what happens in the book, even if they aged the protagonist down by about 5 years. (The writing style is middle-grade-ish, but the characters are in their late teens.) The new one looks like it should be the cover for a self-published YA vampire romance. Not that there's anything wrong with YA vampire romance, but that's really not what this book is.

This book has been one of my comfort reads for at least a decade or more. It's fast, funny, sweet, has a surprisingly well-crafted mystery given the simplicity of the style, and it never fails to make me happy, despite the book's somewhat dark premise. It's about a young man in a rural, medieval-ish village who is accused of murder, and because they don't know what to do with him -- murder isn't something they have to deal with very often -- the villagers wall him up in an ossuary cave with the dead man's corpse. Luckily for him, he's not the only person in the cave; there's also a witch (sarcastic, hyper-competent, and AWESOME; she's great) who sneaks in every so often to steal bits of corpses for spells.

She agrees to help him, and so the accused murderer and the dead man's ghost team up to solve the murder. Complication #1: they can't stand each other (which is why he was accused of killing the other guy in the first place -- they had a longstanding and very public feud). Complication #2: due to a necromantic spell gone wrong, the (sarcastic, annoyed) ghost came back trapped in the body of a bat. Meanwhile the witch just wants to know what she did to deserve being saddled with these two idiots. Things pretty much go (hilariously) downhill for everyone from there.

I love this book; it's been one of my perennial Yuletide recs for ages. Parts of it still make me laugh, no matter how many times I've read it, and it's a lovely riff on the general theme of misjudging people based on first impressions -- everyone from the dead guy to the witch to the main character's love interest turns out to be more than they appear at first. It's also a short book and a fast read, so it's not that much of a time investment, unlike the fantasy doorstopper I'm about to rec in the next post.

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Awww, that was wonderful! What a lovely book :D Hilarious at places, but also touching, sometimes dark, with a decent mystery and a wonderful friendship developing between the three main characters. So awesome :D

Have you read/enjoyed any of the other books from the same author?

This really brightened my day. Thanks for the rec :)
Awesome, I'm so happy you liked it! You are very welcome. :D That book has been a favorite of mine for a long time; it always gives me a lift when I need one.

I've read a few of her other books, but it was a very long time ago (the same time I read this one for the first time, probably about 15 years ago) and none of the other ones really stood out for me. However, she's one of those authors whose books are all very different, and I've meant to go back and check out more of them ... so this is a good reminder to see what else the library might have. :D