I downloaded Better Off Dead (Lily Harper Series) by H. P. Mallory onto my AmazonKindle app because it was free and looked interesting.
If there’s such a thing as luck, Lily Harper definitely doesn’t have it.
Killed in a car accident before it’s her time to go, Lily learns that the hereafter isn’t exactly what she hoped it might be.
First, there’s AfterLife Enterprises, the company responsible for sorting out the recently dead and sending them on their way to the Kingdom, (aka happily ever after,) or to the Underground City, (not so happily ever after.)
Learning that Lily’s death was indirectly their fault (her guardian angel, Bill, was MIA during her accident and was one of their employees,) Afterlife Enterprises offers Lily the chance to live again.
But, as with most things involving the afterlife, beware the fine print. Most notably, Lily will become a soul retriever, venturing into the bowels of the Underground City to retrieve souls that were mistakenly sent there by Afterlife Enterprises during a Y2K computer glitch.
Second, there’s angel Bill. As if risking her second life in the Underground City wasn’t enough, Lily’s guide to the Underground is none other than her incompetent, alcoholic, womanizing guardian angel, Bill, the antithesis of anything wholesome. With only Dante’s Inferno and Bill to help her in her quest, Lily’s future isn’t looking bright.
Finally, there’s the legendary bladesmith, Tallis Black. As Scottish as his kilts and heavy brogue, Tallis Black is a centuries-old Celt who, for reasons only known to him, offers to train Lily and act as her escort into the depths of the Underground City. Dark, brooding and definitely dangerous, Lily knows she shouldn’t trust Tallis, but she also can’t deny her attraction to him.
Between soul retrieving in hell, dealing with Bill and trying to figure out what’s in it for Tallis, Lily wonders if maybe she would’ve just been better off dead.
I really like the other H.P. Mallory series and think she is a good writer, but I have some reservations about this series and it didn’t catch my interest like her other two did. I was intrigued by the premise, I like Reaper Mystery tea cozy novels a lot, and I enjoy quirky characters which Better Off Dead has in spades. Angel Bill is quite hilarious even if he was a bit cringe worthy a few times, but in a way that made me laugh in spite of myself. He was the best parts of the book.
Lily is a well developed character who has a lot to learn about her new life. I can see her growing over the series and becoming a wonderful character. I just have a few issues with the premise of her character. My first issue is that when she becomes a Reaper she gets to choose a new body, and since she hates her old fat self she chooses to be a tall, curvy (but in all the right places), redhead- just like every other urban fantasy female lead. Her gangling movements, I’m in a new taller more beautiful body, scenes were off putting to me. It wasn’t as though she chose the right body for the job, she just chose her dream body. And I guess I would be fine with that realism, if the author addressed Lily’s hate of her old body in some way. And maybe Lily will come to realize that her old body wasn’t so bad, or learn something from this in the end, but there was no indication in the first book that this would happen. It seemed an odd point to make about the universe.
My other issue with Lily is that she is yet another virgin, and not necessarily because she wants to be, not because she is choosing for herself her own sexuality, in fact there is no female agency around her choice. I started reading another Reaper Mystery cozy tea novel that I at the same time and I really appreciated that character’s choice about her own sexuality, female agency was a real thing so it was hard not to compare the two. Perhaps Lily’s virginity would not have been such a big deal to me if I wasn’t comparing it to the other, on the other hand it was part of the plot in Better Off Dead.
H. P. Mallory sets up some great characters in Better Off Dead, they aren’t perfect and they have some room to grow. The premise remains interesting and the AfterLife was definitely different from other Reaper Mysteries that I read, so that was a huge plus. There is a kick-ass female in the story, she just happens not to be the heroine. Some of my favorite characters have started out as underwhelming female leads and have grown into amazing women, hopefully Lily is headed in that direction as well.
A Reaper Mystery tea novel about the after life, Better Off Dead has an interesting premise and some quirky characters that will keep you turning the pages.