Wes Cooper was killed in 1933 and a witch brought him back to life. Almost. Wes isn’t quite alive, but he isn’t fully a ghost either. He can live in his corporeal body in the living realm, but in the otherplane he exists as a ghost, able to move through the realm invisible to the living world. This allows Wes to have a very successful career as a “recovery specialist” as he is able to sneak into places undetected and retrieve objects for a price.
Things are going well until Wes witnesses a murder while he is in the otherplane. He feels guilty that he doesn’t step in to try to help the victim soon enough and he wants to do more to help find her killer. But Wes can’t exactly go to the police and explain that he is essentially a ghost. So his friend Lexi convinces Wes to contact his ex-boyfriend, Hudson Rojas, who is a cop and who knows about about Wes’ supernatural status. The problem is that even after 33 years, Wes isn’t really over Hudson. The two broke up because while they loved one another, Hudson was too focused on his career, and Wes, after barely getting by for so long, was too focused on himself.
Hudson needs Wes’ help on the case as Wes can get access to places that Hudson can not. Things are tense between them at first, with Hudson running hot and cold, seeming to still care for Wes sometimes and pushing him away others. As the two dig further into the case, more murders crop up that appear to be connected. Soon, the threats are growing and they seem to be at least tangentially connected to a big secret that Hudson is keeping. Now the men must figure out who is behind the killings before they become victims themselves. And once they do, maybe they can figure out a way to rekindle the love they once had between them.
Those of you who read my reviews regularly know I am a sucker for creative world building in my paranormal stories. I am always looking for that little something extra that provides a new and interesting approach, and I have to say that Jenn Burke really delivers with Not Dead Yet. The whole premise is just so engaging; I loved the idea of Wes as a not quite ghost and it leads to so many clever story angles, as well as some really interesting relationship and character development. Here we have a man born in the 1930s, who has lived a lifetime already, but still looks like a young man. Even better, he is paired with a man he dated 33 years ago — a man who is a 58-year-old silver fox, almost unheard of in romanceland. Ah, I just adored everything about this dynamic. They are former lovers who are still yearning for one another. But at the same time, so much time has passed. Hudson has changed in innumerable ways, yet Wes is almost unchanged, both physically and emotionally. They each had their selfishness in their previous relationship, with Hudson focused on work and Wes on himself, and now the two have to figure out if they can give their relationship and each other the priority they deserve. I just loved these guys together and found them a fascinating and engaging couple.
On top of the great characters, Burke has pulled together a fascinating mystery/suspense with a great paranormal overlay. The case is twisty and exciting. It kept me guessing and the ending is intense. I appreciated the way the mystery ultimately pulls together so many elements from the characters and their backstories, from the world building, and from the paranormal elements. It all just comes together really well and kept me engaged and eagerly reading until the end.
There are some nice side characters here, particularly Wes’ best friend, Lexi, who is from the line of witches who saved Wes. There is also a young, baby vampire who ends up as part of their group, and there is kind of a fun “scooby gang” feeling as the four of them work together. They all know each others’ secrets, so they are able to research and figure things out that can’t be handled by the police. I also like the found family vibe we get from the group, especially as Wes and Hudson have both been so isolated for much of their lives.
A couple of small notes here. First, while it isn’t ever explicitly stated, Wes tracks pretty clearly along the asexual spectrum. It is mentioned many times how he rarely experiences sexual attraction and Hudson is one of the few exceptions to that. So it was really nice to see a character with some diversity in this area. Second, I’ll also mention that there is a big, shocking reveal in this story that you definitely don’t want to be spoiled about. Sadly, I made the mistake of reading the blurb for book 2 before reading this story and the surprise is given away in the first sentence. So definitely avoid that blurb and stick with reviewers you trust not to give spoilers for this story if you don’t want to ruin the fun.
Overall, I found this book just excellent in so many ways. It has great world building, wonderful character development, and a really fun and engaging mystery all wrapped up in a nice paranormal package. I am super excited for the next book in the series and to see what more there is to come for these guys.