Urban Fantasy goes for a spin in Nicholas Kaufmann’s Dying is My Business. Without pomp or circumstance, Kaufmann takes us to a criminal underworld where magic is in every step. Set against the backdrop of New York City, Kaufmann melds the real with the fantasy in his amusing adventure.
Given his line of work in the employ of a psychotic Brooklyn crime boss, Trent finds himself on the wrong end of too many bullets. Yet each time he’s killed, he wakes a few minutes later completely healed of his wounds but with no memory of his past identity. What’s worse, each time he cheats death someone else dies in his place.
Sent to steal an antique box from some squatters in an abandoned warehouse near the West Side Highway, Trent soon finds himself stumbling into an age-old struggle between the forces of good and evil, revealing a secret world where dangerous magic turns people into inhuman monstrosities, where impossible creatures hide in plain sight, and where the line between the living and the dead is never quite clear. And when the mysterious box is opened, he discovers he has only twenty-four hours to save New York City from certain destruction, in Dying Is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann.
The first thing that really stood out to me was how Kaufmann truly captures New York. While many authors fail at this, he seemed to nail it. As a New Yorker, I loved how authentic Kaufmann was and truly appreciated it. One of my favorite lines was when someone claimed if you think the city’s too loud you don’t have to destroy it, just move to Westchester like everyone else. Though I could fully benefit from these jokes, I often wondered how many people who aren’t New Yorkers would be able to. Occasionally it felt as if you were either in the know or not and if you weren’t oh well. While I didn’t mind the inside jokes since I could relate to them, it made me question whether Kaufmann was sacrificing some narrative for many of his readers.
Kaufmann’s concepts are quite interesting if not original. Gargoyles, an underused supernatural creature, were featured heavily. To my delight, Kaufmann used stereotype of what a gargoyle society could be, dumb as a rock if you will, playing into and out of it. This kind of broad stroke character and world development was good. I enjoyed the subtleties of magic such as a league of wizards who acted like superheroes and Guardians, god like entities which were tied to elements including the addition of metal, wood, time and magic.
However, Kaufmann’s development ended there. Characters, both major and minor, felt one dimensional and like poor imitations of known characters. This was a bit annoying as it was as if the ensemble was created by mixing favorite people and archetypes.
This lack of originality in characters unfortunately did not end there. Plotlines were incredibly predictable and lacking a new take. Kaufmann relied a bit too heavily on his initial plot of guy not knowing his past and falling into the world of magic.
Despite the predictability, I quite enjoyed Dying is My Business for the book it was. Entertaining and occasionally funny, this light read is definitely worth the short time it will take to read it. I took Dying is My Business at face value and was surprised in how much I enjoyed it.