Lullaby of the Dead by Lynn Lamb, available at Amazon, features a big cast of characters from both the living and the dead. Landry Sinclair is in effect a ball-busting corporate down-sizer, keen to distance herself from her dirty work.
She has to meet a quota at her department, and – although she’s not happy about it – relieves near-retirees of their positions, often at a distance. A thorn in her side is one of the QBs (or cubicle workers), an ambitious and manipulative slacker whom she would remove if he wasn’t quite so good at corporate politics.
Next, the entire office is investigated for murder. Her slacker underling sleeps with her after this tragedy at the workplace. And, as it was Landry who found the body, she falls under suspicion.
What could have been an industrial espionage / corporate thriller type novel suddenly shifts focus to turn the book into a ghost story, where we meet a host of spirits who can observe the murderous goings-on of the psychopath responsible for what becomes a hat-trick of office murders, and then some. Lamb addresses details of the corporate world with great skill, and as the move to the spirit world occurs, there are echoes of Beetlejuice and The Wizard of Oz.
A mash-up of The Hudsucker Proxy and Burton’s Beetlejuice, for example, might have felt like an easier fit. But this is more like Michael Crichton’s Disclosure, or Mamet’s Glengarry Glenross, mixed with a darker Burton flick. And let’s not forget the murder investigation. Police procedural, corporate thriller, horror, fantasy, Gothic, otherworldly, soft scifi – the list of genres one could tag in this novel are numerous. It’s a commendable venture from Lamb.
On the haunted side of the house we find Serine – an Irish, Famine-era immigrant, Topanga – a Native American who lived on the lands, Sarah – a girl-sized victim of abuse with centuries of wisdom, who lived through a world of trauma and died before her time, Ben – a 1980s throwback, and cowboys, hustlers and rustlers such as Jim James and Sideburns, alongside numerous other spirits – who had lived or died on the California property, or its previous incarnations, over the centuries. What is this place’s significance?
It’s where the killer himself lives today. We are presented with a frame through which we hear all of these characters’ death stories, many of them truly horrific.
Lamb introduces a set of rules – these spirits (from disparate eras over a half millennium or more) can observe the world through the mirrors from their (older version of the) home in which the killer now lives (in its present-day state), peering into the aquarium of living occupants and observing life like a soap opera.
You’ll have to read this awesome strange beast to find out.