Dearly Departed (Love Me Dead #3) – Heather Novak

On a backdrop of book pages, an iPad with the cover of Dearly Departed by Heather Novak. At the bottom of the image, in the left corner, a strip of torn paper with a quote: "Heather Novak is quickly becoming an automatic read for me" and a url: judeinthestars.com

This is my third book by Heather Novak – and my second review, I’ll explain why below – and I hope she keeps writing sapphic fiction because she’s quickly becoming an automatic read for me. It started with Blood Thinners, the first book in the Love Me Dead series. I liked the cover, requested the book, loved it (read the review). The second book, Grim and Bear It, wasn’t sapphic and so didn’t register with me but then this book came along, and while I was enjoying the romance arc a lot – a second chance, enemies to lovers, workplace romance –, I felt I was missing too many information to really appreciate the mystery as well. So I went back and read Grim and Bear It, which I totally recommend but won’t review on its own, since I only review sapphic stories (please no lectures, I read non-sapphic books most of my life and now that I read and review purely for pleasure, I’ll read whatever I want).

So, what is this series about? First of all, it’s urban fantasy, which is one of my favourite genres. As I’ve stated before, I’ll read most genres – no poetry or nonfiction – but some make my brain cells feel sparkly just thinking about reading. And yes, sparkly-feeling brain cells are a thing, why wouldn’t they be? In Blood Thinners, Mina and her Supernatural Human Accountability Partnership (SHAP) partner Jake uncovered a vampire venom-based drug epidemic while Mina was falling in love with one of the suspects. In Grim and Bear It, Jake is reunited with the love of his life, Poppy, a grim reaper who can’t get herself to enjoy her job despite having been dead for twelve years. And maybe there’s a reason for that, which will come out in a journey that sees her help Jake and his new partner Paris in their investigation of another version of the same venom-based drug (with the intervention of characters from the author’s other series). Finally, in Dearly Departed, Paris risks everything for her own new partner, Eliza, Jake’s stepsister and Paris’s ex, and for Eliza’s daughter Daisy, a very young, very adorable and very powerful witch.

The core group of characters is tied by love and respect, bickering and banter, and queerness. Despite having wildly different personalities, they’re all very easy to love and root for. All romance arcs are separate but the mystery spans all three books. This one picks up right after the cliffhanger of book 2. Eliza’s fiancé was killed a couple of years ago and as far as she knows, Paris is responsible. Eliza’s daughter Daisy’s magic is making her ill and Eliza uses her medium gift to try and reach Daisy’s dad in the afterlife, hoping, in vain, for answers. Before she knew of Paris’s involvement in his death, she thought a relationship with her was possible but now, all she wants is for this investigation to be over, for her child to be okay, and for Paris to be out of her life.

I wrote in my review of Blood Thinners that “I ended this book feeling the way I do when I come out of – or used to come out of, in pre-pandemic times – a movie theatre after watching an adrenaline-filled picture, or a really entertaining one. Mentally satisfied and bursting with energy.” I have the same feeling at the end of the series. Novak gives a joyous, colourful feel to stories that, under the surface, deal with complex and meaningful topics: grief, disability (visible and hidden), loss in various forms. And I really, really like it. 4.5⭐️

5-stars

Dearly Departed @ Bookshop.org / IndieBound / Book Depository / amazon

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