Jonah Miller is not your usual forensic scientist. He is a member, one of the very best, of the Forensic Revival Service in the United States. His job is to attend mysterious or violent deaths as soon as possible after they occur, while the soul is still within reach of the corpse. He is able to touch that body and for a short time, hopefully long enough, he is able to communicate with the dead and with their help discover the truth of their death. The dead don’t lie. There is a humane side to the business. The nearest and dearest are able to attend the revival and, if possible, they are able to give their dead loved one a final message to help them on their way. Almost always that message is ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m sorry’.
Something isn’t right, though. As the novel begins, Jonah takes part in the revival of a brutally slaughtered young woman. But during the process the woman becomes terrified, sharing her fear with Jonah. He lets her soul go – by losing physical contact – but not before he recognises something else in the dead woman’s eyes, something not quite human, that has its own message for Jonah. It is clear that Jonah is especially receptive to the remnants that revivals can leave behind – he can never let them go completely. As Jonah searches for an explanation for the horror that communicated with him, he is aware of other forces watching him, guiding him, frightening him.
Reviver is a great first novel by Seth Patrick. It is a mixture of things – thriller, horror, paranormal, crime fiction, mystery – each coming to the fore at different times and all driving the story on with a fast pace. It is chilly and in places quite frightening – one moment in particular sent cold fingers dancing down my spine – but, despite the strong presence of the paranormal and the horrific, above all it is a dark detective story in which our detective hero, Jonah, must piece together the clues before he is himself unravelled.
Jonah is supported by some intriguing characters, especially Annabel who has her own questions she wants answered, and the dialogue is fast and punchy. There is a dark humour to it. Reviver is always fun to read despite its theme. It also raises some fascinating questions about the finality of death and the treatment of the dead in a world in which the dead may not be dead enough and when secret (or not so secret) agencies can abuse the deceased. The dead always tell the truth but they can also be terrified – can anything or anyone be more vulnerable than such a soul? In such a story you’d expect to be moved and in Reviver you will be. Grief has a strong presence. The whole context of the history of revival is also created well here, and has a strong representation in the figure of Daniel Harker.
I am a wuss when it comes to horror but I do like the chill that shivers through the atmosphere of Reviver. I actually found it more thriller than horror and if the novel had any fault for me it would be that I didn’t find it frightening enough. Regardless, Reviver is a fine first novel and the great news is that it is the first in a trilogy. Reviver has a fabulous premise and I can’t wait to see how Seth Patrick develops it in the novels to come.