by Matt Cowper
Series: Johnny Wagner, Godlike PI, #1Kindle Edition, 380 pg.
Read: August 23 – 26, 2017
Double Lives takes place in a world as overloaded with super-heroes and super-villains as The Tick (comic or cartoon), Powers (comic) or Powerless (TV). But our protagonist isn’t a super-hero, at least not any more. Now, he’s a P. I. — with a twist. A minor deity (whose name I will not try to type), nicknamed Dak has been merged with him and acts as his right arm.
Dak is a god of destruction, and will use power beams, super-strength and the like to achieve this destruction, as often as possible — even when it works against his host, Johnny Wagner, professionally or personally. He will also, at whim, start an argument with Johnny or anyone nearby, threaten them, or just sound off about whatever he wants to — again, even when it works against his host. Dak is really annoying, but will (mostly) grow on you. I did enjoy his origin story, I should add.
Johnny’s a typical down-on-his-luck P.I., there’s really nothing about him early on that will make you think hes anything but a comic book version of Marlowe-clone. Which is fine to start with, and thankfully Cowper doesn’t leave him that way. He is interesting enough to keep the reader engaged and interested.
The hero Captain Neptune has recently been killed by a laughable member of his rogues gallery, Gray Squirrel. The killing was very public, very definite, and very, very filmed. As such, Gray Squirrel is going away for a very long time. Until Neptune’s widow hires Johnny to investigate. She just doesn’t think that Gray Squirrel intended to kill him, and wants Johnny to uncover the truth about what happened.
Sadly, Johnny just doesn’t uncover that, but he unearths many things that people’d prefer were kept under wraps. There’s a decent bit of investigation that goes on, punctuated with some very well-written comic book fight scenes. I was less than impressed with the dialogue, which was frequently problematic, and the romantic storyline. The rest worked, in a heightened-comic book reality way. Which is not a slam, it’s a description — I’m a comic fan, I wish I could read more. I enjoyed the other characters — minor, allies, villains of various degrees of power, heroes (most of whom come across as real jerks), too.
The climactic battles were really well-executed, and even if I hadn’t been won over by the book by this time, I’d probably recommend the books just for them. Thankfully, I can say that there’s a lot more going for Double Lives than those two battles. It’s a lot of fun, and super-hero fans should find plenty to reward their time if they read this.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for this post. I appreciate the opportunity.