Review: Dead Mann Walking by Stefan Petrucha

October 15, 2011 Review 10


Dead Mann Walking (Hessius Mann #1) Title: Dead Mann Walking
Author: Stefan Petrucha
Series: Hessius Mann #1
Cover Art: N/A
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Excerpt: Yes
Source: Publisher
Reviewed by: Julia

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Roc; October 4, 2011
  • ISBN-10: 0451464214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451464217

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Sexual Content:

Kissing, references to prostitution, pedophilia, and multiple partner sex.


Excellent – Loved it! Buy it now & put this author on your watch list.


After Hessius Mann was convicted of his wife’s murder, suppressed evidence came to light and the verdict was overturned-too bad he was already executed. But thanks to the miracles of modern science Hessius was brought back to life. Sort of.

Now that he’s joined the ranks of Fort Hammer’s pulse-challenged population, Hessius attempts to make a living” as a private investigator. But when a missing persons case leads to a few zombies cut to pieces, Hessius starts thinking that someone’s giving him the run-around-and it’s not like he’s in any condition to make a quick getaway…


The word “noir” doesn’t even begin to capture the dark, gritty world of DEAD MANN WALKING.  Hessius Mann is an undead Humphrey Bogart, battered and flawed and wry, and his relationships with the other lost souls in Fort Hammer are poignant moments in this mix of mystery and undeath.

Petrucha’s zombies, called “chakz” (mangled Spanish for “jerky”, as their bodies dry out), come back to life with lowered IQ’s, memory loss, and bodies that cannot heal beyond what Krazy Glue and stitches can hold together. They struggle not just against the betrayal of their own flesh but an almost complete lack of societal protection. Memory loss makes a chakz’s testimony inadmissible in court, assuming the police ever bother to show up, and chakz communities are under regular attack by roving bands of “livebloods” come to hack up the undead for weekend sport. It’s a novel twist to hide in the dark with zombies, afraid of the living coming to kill them, but Petrucha isn’t just flipping things around for kicks. The world he writes is grim and sad and heartbreaking, but also darkly compelling and comedic. The practical considerations of being the living dead are fascinating when viewed through the lens of Hessius Mann’s dark humor. Mann deals with the decline of his body with a steady resolve that says less about having hope than about him having already faced the worst the world can offer. What can they do, kill him again?

While not a romance, DEAD MANN WALKING could be considered a love story, a portrait of the best and worst humanity is capable of when faced with a vulnerable population that is mistrusted and reviled. For those who found the political dynamics of Nancy Holzner’s Deadtown series interesting, DEAD MANN WALKING offers a grittier, and in many ways more affecting, world where society struggles to find a place for loved ones returned. The mystery that animates Mann for the whole of this book swept me away, only for the ending to remind me that there is a bigger struggle looming over it all.

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10 Responses to “Review: Dead Mann Walking by Stefan Petrucha”

  1. Julia

    I hope you get a chance to look at this one, Abigail, I think you'll like it more than WORKING STIFF.

  2. Chrystal

    This sounds fantastic… adding to my wishlist. 🙂 I love how you layout your reviews and the way you wrote this one.

  3. Abigail

    @Julia – That's a joke, right? Cause I liked my last migraine better than I liked WORKING STIFF 😉

  4. Julia

    @Chrystal – The layout is all Abigail, glad you liked the review. I'm already pressuring my husband to read this one, I think he'll love the chakz.

    @Abigail – Not a joke, you could hardly like it less… No, WORKING STIFF was the first zombie book that I liked, but I think DEAD MANN WALKING is darker (but less flawed) for you. I still have to read WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE, see where we match up on zombies.

  5. Abigail

    @Julia – Yes, read it! Although I know we both loved Sophie Littlefield's Aftertime series (btw you need to read her Banished series too…very different kind of zombies).

  6. erin

    Thanks for a great review! I won an ARC of this book on goodreads and it was languishing in my TBR pile. Looks like I'll be pulling it out!

    As a recommendation, have you two ladies read World War Z? It's by Max Brooks and it's fantastic. A must read zombie book. Like all great books, it's being made into a movie, and I don't know if I like that or not. Just like Hunger Games, sometimes fantastic books should just stay… books.

  7. Julia

    @Erin – I haven't World War Z, I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

    @Stefan – It's a pleasure writing a review when the book is this good, Stefan, so thank you for writing such a great story! I read so much of DEAD MANN WALKING aloud that my husband stole my copy as soon as I put it down, so far this book has universal approval in our house (which is pretty rare).