"Wildly imaginative, highly entertainging, and great story-telling!"
Reviewed by Miranda Owen
Posted August 10, 2014
SLIMY UNDERBELLY is Book four in Kevin J. Anderson's Dan
Shamble, Zombie PI series. I love this series! I always
look forward to a new book in this series because it is
always funny, and very entertaining. This book is no
exception. Even though SLIMY UNDERBELLY is part of a
series, I believe that it can be enjoyed without having
read the previous books in the series. Kevin J. Anderson
does a good job of establishing characters and background
information. This is a great book for anyone who likes
paranormal mysteries with a little goofiness and great
As with other books in this series, there are a few side
stories going on at the same time. Dan works a few
different cases throughout the course of SLIMY UNDERBELLY,
but a lot of them tie back to the sewers. For that obvious
reason, there are some gross bits in the story but nothing
that ruins the story. There are some cases that are lighter
in tone than others. Some situations border on slapstick. I
think it's because of the sillier moments that the more
serious ones pack such a punch. Right after some amusing
antics by some paranormal characters, a crime will happen
and a character you get emotionally invested in or some
innocent bystander might get hurt.
In addition to the cornball jokes, a little social
commentary is thrown in for good measure. In SLIMY
UNDERBELLY, the villains might be bizarre, gross, or goofy,
but I like that Dan humanizes them and considers what made
them become a bad guy. This is illustrated beautifully by
the storyline involving one of Dan's clients -- junior mad
scientist Jody Caligari. He's a cute little kid who might
be too smart for his own good, and aspires to be a
supervillain. Dan and company take him under their wing and
try to encourage his intelligence, while trying to steer
him away from a potential life of crime. For me, there are
no stock characters in this series. All of them are full of
life and multi-faceted.
SLIMY UNDERBELLY is another in a long line of wildly
imaginative and entertaining detective stories. Dan Shamble
is a zombie take on Philip Marlowe. I can't wait for the
next installment in this excellent series!
Flushing Out Evil
Thereâ€™s something fishy going on in the Unnatural Quarter.
Bodies are floating face-down, the plumbing is backing up,
and something smells rottenâ€”even to a zombie detective like
Dan Shamble. Diving into the slimy underbelly of a
diabolical plot, Dan comes face-to-tentacles with an
amphibious villain named Ahâ€™Chulhu (to which the usual
response is â€śGesundheit!â€ť). With his snap-happy gang of
gator-guysâ€”former pets flushed down the toiletâ€”Ahâ€™Chulhu
wreaks havoc beneath the streets. While feuding weather
wizards kick up storms and a gang of thieving lawn gnomes
continues their reign of terror, Dan Shamble is running out
of timeâ€”before the whole stinking city goes down the drainâ€¦
It was a cold and snowy afternoon in the Unnatural Quarter.
The blizzard struck with howling winds and whiteout
conditions; temperatures dropped to well below freezing. And
we still hadnâ€™t recovered from that morningâ€™s dust storm and
People say that if you donâ€™t like the weather in the
Quarter, just wait an hourâ€”especially when the weather
wizards are feuding.
I trudged along the sidewalk, braced against the pelting
snow and sleet, heading back to the offices of Chambeaux &
Deyer Investigations. My sport jacket was not made for the
weather, and the biting wind probed like a proctologistâ€™s
cold finger through the crudely stitched bullet holes in the
fabric. My dead skin couldnâ€™t much feel the chill, but even
embalming fluid will freeze if it gets cold enough.
I stepped in a thick puddle of slush, which soaked my shoes
and socks. Sure, I should have worn galoshes. But edgy
private investigators donâ€™t wear galoshesâ€”not even zombie
private investigators. The howling wind nearly tore the
fedora off my head, but I used one hand to hold it in place,
ducking down as I grumbled about the weather wizardsâ€™
campaign season, when the two candidates felt the need to
show off their skills, although I doubted they impressed
Iâ€™d gone out to the Ghoulâ€™s Diner for a cup of coffee on a
slow afternoon. Before leaving, doing my due diligence, I
checked three different, and competing, weather stations.
While the giggly brunette and the sculpted Ken-doll-wannabe
prognosticators had predicted a range of meteorological
phenomena, none of them mentioned anything about a blizzard
in the next hour. I should have known not to rely on a
A black-furred werewolf scuttled across the street in front
of me, his entire body matted with snow. He huddled under a
porch overhang while he fumbled to unlock the door of his
walkup, but his clawed fingers were so numb that he dropped
the keys in the snow. He growled as he fished around, and
when he found them, they were too ice-encrusted to fit in
No, the weather wizards were not winning any votes here.
With Alastair Cumulus III and Thunder Dick campaigning to
prove who was the better weathermancer, this
unpredictability would go on until Election Day. . . .
The Chambeaux & Deyer offices were only a block away. I
canâ€™t help my stiff-legged gait, but at least I donâ€™t slouch
and shuffle like some of those poorly preserved zombies. A
guy has to have some measure of pride. I keep myself as fit
and limber as possibleâ€”considering my condition. Thereâ€™s
only so much you can do with a dead body, and rigor mortis
has lasting effects. With joint supplements, however, as
well as a once-a-month maintenance spell performed by a pair
of witches (former clients of mine), I do all right. Some
people even consider me handsome in certain light . . .
preferably dim light. My girlfriend, Sheyenne, certainly
thinks so. Admittedly, sheâ€™s a ghost, but her vision is
A sharp gust blew so hard I could feel snow slipping through
the bullet hole in my forehead and into my skull. I had
thought about adding more putty before I set out for my cup
of coffee, but the day had been deceptively bright and
sunny. Now, when I got back indoors and the snow melted
inside my head, it was going to slosh around in there and
make an annoying sound in my inner ear.
When I reached the door to our building, the whiteout parted
in a backlash of wind, and I was surprised to see a figure
sitting on the steps, not even trying to get out of the
freezing storm. He wore rags and fingerless gloves. His bony
knees, visible through holes in his trousers, were drawn up
to his chest. A floppy fabric hat was tugged down on ropy
clumps of gray hair that looked like dreadlocks but were
actually just tangles. His skin was a blotchy assortment of
grays, tans, and putrid greens.
â€śHello, Mr. Renfeld,â€ť I said. â€śI donâ€™t often see you outside
of your office.â€ť Itâ€™s always good to stay on cordial terms
with your building super.
Despite the blinding snow, Renfeld seemed relaxed and
comfortable, and his grin showed a reasonable, though not
optimal, number of teeth. He said in a wet, mucousy voice,
â€śJust came out to enjoy the weather.â€ť
â€śThis is the type of weather you enjoy?â€ť
He adjusted his knees and let the white wind blast him.
â€śItâ€™ll change,â€ť I agreed.
Mr. Renfeld is a ghoul with a bad skin condition and a taste
for putrid flesh, but heâ€™s nice enough in his own way. Iâ€™ve
got nothing against ghouls . . . or zombies, ghosts,
vampires, werewolves, mummies, demons, witches, or any of
the other creatures that haunt (or just inhabit) the
Renfeld manages the building, which has office space for our
agency as well as ten other tenants, most of whom keep their
doors barred and windows shutteredâ€”possibly illicit
operations or storefronts for sham corporations, or the
tenants might just be recluses. I donâ€™t do much snooping
unless somebody pays me. On the other hand, business had
been awfully slow for the past week; maybe Iâ€™d satisfy my
curiosity after all. . . .
â€śFinally rented those basement tenements,â€ť Renfeld said.
â€śTheyâ€™ve been on the market for a while.â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t know you had basement tenements for rent.â€ť I
didnâ€™t know we had basement tenements at all . . . and Iâ€™d
never even been in the buildingâ€™s basement.
â€śCouldnâ€™t afford to advertise. I just spread word on the
street and under it,â€ť Renfeld said. â€śWhen I finally added a
new building entrance, that did the trick. Best investment I
Snow swirled around me as I stood on the front step. If I
were sensible, Iâ€™d get inside out of the wind, but I was
having a good conversation. â€śThereâ€™s a new entrance? I heard
all the banging and construction. As the clichĂ© goes, it was
enough to wake the dead.â€ť
â€śSorry about the noise,â€ť Renfeld said.
â€śDonâ€™t worry about it. These days it doesnâ€™t take much to
wake the dead. Theyâ€™re mostly light sleepers.â€ť As a
detective, though, I might need to have an alternate
entrance so that I could sneak in or out of our offices
without being seen; I wanted to know my options. â€śWhere is
the new door?â€ť
Renfeld pointed a gray finger toward his feet. â€śDown below,
direct access to the sewer systemâ€”lots of demand for that.
Your regular key should work.â€ť
â€śGood to know. I could have taken an underground shortcut
and stayed out of the snowstorm.â€ť In a hurry to get inside
now, I tipped my fedora to Mr. Renfeld, dumping the
accumulated white slush on the step. â€śEnjoy the weather.â€ť
Renfeld continued to grin, looking up at the sky. â€śIâ€™m
anxious to see whatâ€™s next. I hope it gets blustery. Nothing
beats a blustery day.â€ť
As I entered the building, a gust of wind slammed the door
shut behind me. I stomped the residual snow from my feet,
once again ruing the fashion considerations that precluded
edgy detectives from wearing sensible protective footgear.
But, alas, style trumps sense every time. I reached our
offices on the second floor, CHAMBEAUX & DEYER
INVESTIGATIONS painted right on the door. It would have made
my mother proud, if my mother had ever cared. I was content
to be proud for myself. Maybe this wasnâ€™t the glamorous
career Iâ€™d once dreamed of, but detective work paid the
bills. And I wasnâ€™t getting any youngerâ€”or any more alive.
Sheyenne hovered at her desk to greet me with a sparkling
smile on her luminous, half-substantial visage. Sheâ€™s a
gorgeous blonde with big blue eyes and a great figure, and
sheâ€™s even smarter than she is beautiful. We no longer have
a physical relationship, since she no longer has a physical
body, but we satisfy ourselves with an ectoplasmic one, and
sometimes thatâ€™s pretty damn good.
She frowned at my blizzard-modified state. â€śBeaux, you
shouldnâ€™t be out in weather like thatâ€”youâ€™ll catch your
â€śAlready caught it.â€ť I removed my fedora and shook the snow
from my sport jacket before hanging it on the rack next to
the door. â€śIâ€™ll dry out.â€ť
â€śNothing wrong with being moist and dank, ayupâ€”thatâ€™s what I
always say.â€ť The burbling voice came from our conference
room just off the main reception area.
Seated at the long table was a frog demon the size of a
small man. He had glistening green skin with black leopard
spots. His golden eyes were the size of softballs, and
twitchy nictitating membranes flickered up and down over
them. He wore a frock coat with a high collar to show he was
a respectable businessman.
Across the conference table, my partner, Robin Deyer,
stacked manila folders and removed the last few sheets of
paper. Robinâ€™s a lawyer, but not a typical one. She has a
heart and a compassionate streak a mile wide. â€śWeâ€™ve almost
wrapped up Mr. Lurrmâ€™s file, Danâ€”all the iâ€™s dotted and tâ€™s
crossed, signed in slime and duly notarized.â€ť
When the amphibious creature chuckled, his lower throat
ballooned out. â€śPlease just call me Lurrm, Ms. Deyerâ€”no need
to use Mister. Weâ€™re all friends here, and besides, Iâ€™m in
my androgynous phase. Ayup.â€ť His throat billowed out and
back. â€śIâ€™m so excited about this I can barely restrain
myself from exuding ooze.â€ť
I think the frog demon was smiling, but with a mouth that
wide it was hard to tell. â€śOpen for business: the improved,
refurbished, and totally legitimate Zombie Bathhouse. Ayup!
The sign with our new name got installed yesterday.
Recompose Spa.â€ť He rubbed his soft hands together. â€śWe did
our VIP sneak preview last week as a shakedown for new
customers, and today weâ€™re open to the public.â€ť
â€śIf any customers can make it through this weather,â€ť Robin
said. â€śThe weather networks canâ€™t agree on when the blizzard
â€śThe weather anchors canâ€™t agree on what temperature water
freezes,â€ť Sheyenne said.
Lurrm puffed his throat again. â€śThe blizzard might help
business. If youâ€™re frozen and crusted with ice, thereâ€™s
nothing like a good soak in a hot-springs pool. Ayup.â€ť
The Zombie Bathhouse had once been a front for the evil
body-parts smuggler, Tony Cralo, an obscenely fat zombie
gangster. After Craloâ€™s downfall, the Zombie Bathhouse shut
down and fell into rapid and dank disrepair, until Lurrm and
his investors refurbished it.
The frog demon hopped from his chair and stood on powerful
legs, adjusting his frock coat. â€śI know the place had a bad
reputation, but I plan to change that.â€ť He was a bouncy
sort. His long tongue flicked in and out of his mouth in
excitement. â€śThe Recompose Spa will be a family place,
absolutely no underworld connections, everything
aboveboard.â€ť When Lurrm shuddered, the leopard spots danced
on his slick skin. â€śAnd everything disinfected regularly.
Nobodyâ€™s going to get warts from my bathhouse!â€ť
â€śI thought frogs and warts went hand in hand,â€ť I said.
Lurrm blinked his nictitating membranes. â€śThatâ€™s just an old
wivesâ€™ tale, Mr. Chambeaux. Toads cause warts, and donâ€™t let
any of them tell you otherwise. Theyâ€™re rather sensitive
Robin searched through several manila folders and brought
out a certificate for Lurrm. â€śRecompose is one hundred
percent legitimate. Your business license, sales tax forms,
health certificate, OSHA clearances, immersion waiver formsâ€”
everything you need.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m very grateful for your assistance, Ms. Deyer.â€ť
Delighted, the amphibious creature turned to me, jittering
up and down. â€śWe even have an employee manual! I insist that
you all come and take a look tomorrow. I promise a tour and
special discounts. Ayup.â€ť
Robin handed over all the forms, licenses, and certificates
he needed, including a leather-bound corporate manual and a
hand-press seal (which might be a challenge for the frog
demon with his squishy fingers). â€śWeâ€™re very supportive of
our clients. Weâ€™ll be there.â€ť
â€śWeather permitting,â€ť I added.
The frog demon bundled up in his frock coat and left our
offices prepared to face the cold and snow, but by now the
clouds had vanished and been replaced by dense fog.
When the offices were quiet again, I realized I didnâ€™t have
anything to do. â€śSlow day,â€ť I said.
Sheyenne said with the flirtatious lilt that she used just
for me, â€śIf youâ€™re that bored, we could spend more time
â€śWe always spend time together. Almost all day, every day.â€ť
â€śEvery second with you is quality, Spooky.â€ť
â€śGood save.â€ť She picked up a set of folders and drifted off
to the file cabinet.
I was eager for another exciting mystery. Solving cases is
what makes me tickâ€”in fact, I donâ€™t do much else with my
life, or afterlife. I define myself by being a detective,
zombie, or otherwise. But I needed something more glamorous
than preparing business licenses and health department
Robin wrapped up the paperwork for the Recompose Spa and put
all the folders on Sheyenneâ€™s desk. â€śThis may not be
exciting, Dan, but cases like this are our bread and butter.
Our workload is just like the weatherâ€”wait a few minutes and
And it did.
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