Book Review: DEAD MAN IN A DITCH by Luke Arnold

Genre: Fantasy Noir
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - second book



The name’s Fetch Phillips — what do you need?

Cover a Gnome with a crossbow while he does a dodgy deal? Sure. Find out who killed Lance Niles, the big-shot businessman who just arrived in town? I’ll give it shot. Help an old-lady Elf track down her husband’s murderer? That’s right up my alley.

What I don’t do, because it’s impossible, is search for a way to bring the goddamn magic back. Rumours got out about what happened with the Professor, so now people keep asking me to fix the world.

But there’s no magic in this story. Just dead friends, twisted miracles, and a secret machine made to deliver a single shot of murder.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


DEAD MAN IN A DITCH is an engaging sequel as the future of Sunder City is up for grabs, and Fetch Philips has the potential to chose its path. If he stop his clever mouth getting him killed.

I can’t name another noir I’ve read, and the only mysteries I read are usually YA ones, so I’m not sure if this book is indicative of genre or Luke Arnold’s style. Unlike the mysteries I commonly read, this book doesn’t have a continual focus an overarching mystery. Every scene and clue is not being driven towards one goal. There are lots of side vignettes that, though they do eventually come round full circle, really aren’t obvious in the moment.

Instead, the story feels broader and more fantasy than mystery at times. This book is a lot longer than the first (by about 100 pages) and has a scope beyond the city itself. I really liked the zoom out and look at the wider world. While the book is largely set in Sunder, there are a few sequences outside. It helped show the changes to the natural world wrought by magic, and what happened in non-metropolitan worlds. The tug between industrialisation and the past was so interesting too.

Like in THE LAST SMILE IN SUNDER CITY, the voice of the book is brilliant – full of a grim snark and an attitude that’s irreverent and beaten at once. It’s a really fun lens for the story to be told from, pulling the reader in to the gritty world of Fetch Phillips.

The first book gives his backstory, but this one lets/forces him to come to terms with it. I loved how it played into the story, and the chaos a figure from his past brings. Also the way it plays into the title is so good! The character journey he’s forced onto is brilliant, and the choices at the end over what to fight for, how to decide the future of Sunder City, was such a compelling element of the book.

I think there will be another book in the series – at least, I really hope there is.

Read my reviews of other books by Luke Arnold:

Fetch Philips (this series):

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