“Wild Dead”- Carrie Vaughn

Everyone has a past. We could be proud of that past, something worth telling someone about. Or it could be something we are ashamed of, something to avoid in any and all conversations. Eventually, whether we like it or not, the past has a way of catching up with us. How would you like to be judged on something you did twenty years ago? Could you remember the circumstances in great detail? Or was it something so shameful you’ve done your best to block it out? Whether positive or negative, our choices that we make on a daily basis affect those around us. But how much can a community suffer over one person’s mistake?


Investigator Enid is back on the case! A year has passed since the Pasadan case (see the Bannerless review) and it is time to move on to something easier. Freedom-loving Enid is having a hard time leaving Serenity House. Olive is due with the household’s first child, and Enid desperately wants to be a part of it. With duty on the line, she promises her housemates to be back as soon as she can, pleading in whispers to the baby to stay put until she’s home.

Enid travels to the wayward station to pick up her new partner, Teeg, before heading on to assignment, but not without warning. Teeg is fresh out of training and his trainer is full of concerns regarding his patience and quick temper. Enid akes the advice under consideration, hoping to use this simple case as a great learning opportunity.

The pair is headed as far north as the Coast Road will take them- The Estuary. A place that “rarely exceeded quota because there isn’t enough to begin with”, that rarely earn a banner, which means they are missing out on that younger generation taking over households and responsibilities in the future. The Estuary deemed themselves “a loose collection of households whose members preferred to rely on themselves and one another” essentially eliminating the need for a committee but also putting the community at risk for involving investigators in senseless mattes, such as restoring a pre-Fall house.

As soon as Enid and Teeg see the structure in question they know it will be n open and shut case. For the sake of how long it took them to travel out here, they give the place a chance and do a thorough investigation. They gather information from interviews of surrounding households with the consensus being that it was a waste of resources. Years of storms have washed away the foundation making it literally stand precariously in the air. The building itself is “held up by nails, twine, and hope.” There isn’t enough hope in the world that could keep that structure standing, but the owner wants to keep a family promise. Enid decides to brave the house and take a walkthrough while Teeg stands guard.

The inside reflects the disastrous outside. Walls are gone, the floorboards are unstable, and Enid discovers a pile of trash in the corner. Needing something to focus on other than judgment, Enid discovers the pile of trash is actually a worn blanket hiding a satchel containing flint and steel, undeniable proof a squatter frequents the teetering house. The owner of the house doesn’t seem a bit surprised by this and explains that wild folk occasionally come down out of the woods to trade supplies, it was probably one of them.

Just as Enid and Teeg are gearing up to deliver their judgment, they are interrupted by a feral scream coming from the marshlands, prime hunting grounds for scavengers. The man is running towards them like he’s being chased by the devil. Through his exasperated breaths, they are able to hear he has stumbled upon a woman’s dead body in the marsh. Naturally having investigators present, Enid and Teeg run the trajectory back to where the body is located. They confirm the community’s greatest fear that it was a murder and not an accidental death.

The Estuary folk want to know the judgment on the house. They try and persuade the investigators the murder isn’t worth looking into, only making Enid question the situation more. And people want to know if they are being judged due to the cloudy past of a single woman twenty years ago. What is everyone hiding? And will there be justice for the dead?


Let’s talk about these covers. I totally am one of THOSE people who judge a book by its cover. Both Bannerless and Wild Dead caught my attention with their covers. I love the bold colors on both, especially against my black bookcases.

While Wild Dead does make references to the first book, I do not find it imperative information that you would be completely lost. So could these books be read separately? My answer would be yes. So in all actuality, if this series were to continue kind of set up in a mystery murder who-done-it scenario, could you imagine all the colors of the covers lined up together?

If you do decide to read from the beginning, it’s nice already knowing Enid. We see her change in this book. In Bannerless we go from her mother asking if she’d ever want a banner, to Wild Dead and she’s swooning over Olive’s pregnant belly. I felt from book one to book two, in the year between Enid did a lot of growing.

When I first started reading Wild Dead I almost had to put it down. I kept thinking, we’re seriously a whole chapter in on just the description of this dilapidated house? I was secretly hoping for some bigger investigation to come along and save me from the drudgery of that poor house. Thankfully it righted itself within a few chapters and became the quick read it’s former in the series was too.

I can definitely see this series lasting for a while. Not only are they short reads, averaging roughly 260 pages per book, but it’s that quick mystery murder who-done-it scenario that draws you in. We could travel all up and down the Coastal Road with Enid’s investigating jobs and each would be a unique, quick little story.


Wild Dead” by Carrie Vaughn is available now. I was chosen by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all.


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