Maureen Keslyn doesn't want the job her FBI friend, Abel, is offering. Not even when she finds out it's a special request from a revered colleague. But when she finds her husband has kicked her out and moved his mistress in, all while Maureen was hospitalized thanks to a gunshot wound, she realizes she has no choice. The job does come with living arrangements after all.
Shadow Valley Manor isn't supposed to be a nursing home, per se. But even under the guise of an active seniors complex, Maureen isn't fooled. What Maureen isn't sure about is exactly what she's supposed to be investigating. And when the man who lured her into the job in the first place dies the very night they're supposed to meet, she's at a further loss. One thing she does know: Shadow Valley Manor is weird. And Maureen specializes in weird.
So we do know from the start that paranormal beings exist in the world of Dead Before Dying. We also know that Maureen Keslyn hunts these paras in some capacity for the FBI. And that she was injured on the job. Her history and her particular employment don't come out until later on in the book but we also know that Phil, the man who's put her on the job at Shadow Valley Manor, is a heavy in the para business. Someone who's request means a lot to Maureen.
Maureen takes the job blind. Again, she has no choice. She's to live undercover in Shadow Valley Manor as part of an operation Phil is heading. The Manor, once a home for unwed mothers, is led by an awful director who immediately dislikes Maureen. The folks who live there are wealthy and secretive, some of them (the ninety-something-year-old man who claims to be a vampire) are downright weird, too. And even though Maureen has files briefing her on the facility, its history, and the people associated with it, she's relying on Phil to explain everything.
Unfortunately, Phil's dead. And though the coroner declares it natural causes, Maureen isn't so certain. It's the makings of a GREAT paranormal mystery, one that plays out oh, so satisfactorily!
I am not kidding you when I say this book was completely awesome! I'd never read (or heard of) Kerry Schafer before this, but you may recall I jumped on board with the Candace Robb tour last fall and adored the series. So Diversion Books, the publisher of the Robb titles and Dead Before Dying, was known to me. Considering how much I enjoyed the Robb books, I decided to seek out more of their titles and stumbled upon this one from Schafer. And boy am I glad I did!
Maureen is a bit of a refreshing lead - especially in the paranormal mystery world. She's in her 50s, not old enough to even be a resident at Shadow Valley Manor, and extremely seasoned in the para field. She's incredibly clever, too. And the more we learn about her, her world, and her job, the more intriguing the book becomes.
It does sound as though there may be plans to continue Maureen's story as a series. Considering how blown away I was and how much I love this character, I sincerely hope that's the case.
Dead Before Dying is out now. You can check out an excerpt from chapter one over on Kerry's site (linked above). There's also a great interview with Kerry over on My Bookish Ways.