The gifted Wylde Family runs a bookstore in Portland, Oregon, a soggy place most of the time, both inside the bookstore (I'll get to that) and outside the town. The mayor wants the rain festival to be very wet, which complicates matters as zombies invade the flooded town (I'll get to that also). I won't get to why the mayor and the town celebrates rain, but you'll be able to figure that one out on your own.
Joseph Wylde is legally blind, but he still see's more than most other people, and his wife Kate has the uncanny ninja ability to make herself unseen. Author Robert DeBorde doesn't explain these abilities much, but they come in handy when Portland's mayor comes calling with an odd matter or mystery for them to work on, knowing they are a unique pair of sleuths who can handle the unusual. They're like a Wild West version of John Steed and Emma Peel in The Avengers television series, without their eccentricities.
While the mayor is preparing for the rain festival he asks the Wyldes to investigate the mysterious storm totem statue he's acquired, hoping it will unleash a steady flow of droplets for the festivities and make him look like a demi-god as he calls forth the rain with it. He does, it does, and he ends up looking less a demi-god and more a horse's behind, but the torrential result provides the rapid climax to Portlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes. Unfortunately for the Wyldes, early experiments with the storm totem while in the bookstore prove successful.
Kick and Maddie, the Wylde kids, are Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew-ish spunky, and lend a hand as needed when not helping to run the bookstore. Their family business becomes very lively when the walking dead come to town. The zombies are courtesy of one formerly dead gunman who comes back to settle an old score and rack up a few new ones. He's the Hanged Man, and aside from the spellbook he uses to come back to life, he also brandishes a handgun that doesn't need to be reloaded and doesn't miss its target. The gun's handle is also colored red--some say it was stained red from the blood of its victims. Kick and Maddie wind up playing bobbing apples to the zombies dunking for them in the flooded streets of Portland, providing much of the energy of the novel's showdown between the marshall who put him six feet under, and the Wylde family member who helped (and barely survived the ordeal).
The marshall is Jim Kleberg, Kate's dad, and his memory of past events, and how he wound up keeping the deadly handgun, come to light slowly, through flashbacks and remembrances. As he remembers piecemeal, more graves are dug up, more dead rise, and various characters who aren't overly fleshed out in this first entry in the series come into play.
The spellbook belongs to Andre in San Francisco, who, with his mysterious female assistant, fight supernatural monsters like the Hanged Man. Not lost on Andre is his culpability in creating such a monster, so guilt drives him as much as his duty. The sorceror's cookbook appears to contain enough promising evil spells for future novels, so let's see what DeBorde can cook up using it. How Andre and the Wyldes mesh is not fully explained here, leaving much room for backstory in a subsequent novel.
A rousing shootout at a traveling carnival sideshow when the Hanged Man reanimates, after reluctantly being sold to the proprietor as an attraction, perks up the middle of the story, and the Hanged Man's unsavory ability to raise the dead as he passes near them creates a modicum of suspense. I'd expect townsfolk would be more alarmed and more confused when their relatives come back to bite them, but DeBorde keeps it low-key and never capitalizes on the gruesome or kinetic potentials of having so many feisty undead lumbering around.
Keeping his words between young adult in tone and historically informed but not preponderantly so, DeBorde doesn't pile up events or action quickly, and his fairly straight trail of characters' bad decisions (like digging up the Hanged Man in the first place) and wicked intentions (what the Hanged Man does directly and indirectly because he's so darn bad), is easy enough to follow. His paragraphs and interludes can be bland at times, or quaint--take your pick, but DeBorde provides clean starting and ending points with some keystones left unturned in-between.
Writers with a hankering for continuing series tend to do that. The only advice (or hope) I'll mention is that the second novel in the series, should it come to that, better switch from sarsaparilla to whiskey. Reanimating Readers will need something stronger to mosey down this trail again.
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