Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Book Review: The Dead Familiar by JD McKenna (Winterhaven #1)

In the twilight hours of a failing world, one man seeks to bring his loved ones to safety. Jack Hightower: Marine, barkeep, and doomsday prepper. He knows of the coming calamity, and on the final night of an old world he seeks a new beginning. This is the story of that night, the tale of how Jack and his survivor's colony in the north came to be.

My Review: 
War has come to the world and a deal was done with a rampant China to leave Japan neutral and the US and Canada untouched. But when China unleashes the Reaper Virus on Japan, the US is ready to retaliate and Jack puts his disaster plan into effect, sending details to his loved ones about collecting them from pick up points and taking them to the safety of his friend Gary's compound of Winterhaven where they will be safer than in the city. Can he persuade them to trust him and can they all get to Winterhaven?

Jack has not trusted in the peace agreement and prepared for the worst and now it is time to put it into action. With his trusty wolf Fenrir, Jack starts out on the journey out of Minnesota, collecting his friends. He is an organised take-charge kind of guy who knows what he wants to do and you want someone like him on your side when disaster happens. I liked him as an MC. I totally love his gorgeous wolf Fenrir who is seriously hard assed! I just wish that Fenrir was on the book cover! We follow Jack's progress as he starts by rescuing neighbour Nicole and her daughter May, before going to his friends, his brother's girlfriend and his ex wife and her family.

We also follow the progress of people who are not with the main group. Rey and his Uncle Jose are friends of Gary and are travelling from Mexico, trying not to attract any attention and avoiding population centres until they have an interesting encounter in Utah with a group of Civil War reenactors. I really enjoyed this part of the story as they are all interesting characters. John and Olivia are in Memphis and have to make a dangerous stop in a bad part area to stop to pick up vital supplies that Jack has hidden, on their way out of the city.

John's parents are arriving on the doorstep of Jack's ex wife Liz, her new boyfriend Duke, a friend of Jack, and her family, who are less than convinced by Jack's message of doom as they never approved of him as a partner for Liz. However they are now watching their neighbourhood burn and uninvited people are about to gatecrash their home, making escape vital. Jack's brother Sam is at college and persuades his friends to join him on a camping trip, putting off telling them why he is leading them towards Gary's compound until the very last minute. Bear is away on a rugby trip but is in the vicinity of St Cloud, which is locked down. Bear is determined to help other people escape from the area and join the convoy to Winterhaven.

Every book needs a bad guy of course and in this one we have George Lucas, a fanatical despot and racist who is determined to take over and rule Mississippi, removing the 'tainted' from his state. He is recruiting a private army and demanding their loyalty. It is going to be interesting to see how his actions impact on our survivors further north.

There is plenty tension and excitement through the book as you would imagine. At each stage of the journey, Jack's main convoy has to stop to add new people, and some of the stops are more dangerous than others. The apartment block that Meghan and Elizabeth live in is under attack and Jack needs to sneak in to help them. The stop at the armory turns into real danger when an angry mob are determined to stop them taking the weapons. Liz and her family and friends are facing attack and need to escape and get word to Jack that they need help. There are also the stories of all the others travelling towards Winterhaven to enjoy. And if all that wasn't enough, there is a group of escaped criminals very close to Winterhaven who are determined to take it over...

There is one little niggle and that is editing. All through the story, Jack's friend is referred to sometimes as Gary and sometimes as Greg which is somewhat confusing in the beginning. However I can overlook that when I like the characters and the plot. I'm certainly looking forward to reading the rest of this series at some point this year.  

Read January 2017.
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png


  1. Awesome cover and the book sounds awesome. Shades of 'Dies the Fire' with the rebuilding after calamity (though a very different calamity than that book had).

    It does seem a bit strange that the villain is named George Lucas; picking a well known director's name can't be done by accident I would think?

    1. I was wondering if the author hated Star Wars when I saw the name!

  2. Wow that's quite the cover. This sounds pretty good... I like the china virus angle. Considering that I like fast moving stories with lots of tension I should probably put some of these prepper/ post apoc books on my TBR!

    I do hate editing errors like- Gary/ Greg lol. I always wonder how they slip through- I mean that's hard to miss seems like!

    1. I see a lot of Gary/Greg style mistakes in Indie books. I get the feeling the author maybe changed the character name at some point but missed out a few that should've been changed! It is mildly annoying! Most Indie authors don't pay for proofreaders and editors and sometimes it can be a car crash! I didn't find this too bad as I liked the story.

  3. That is quite the cover. The editing would bug me. I tend to catch when someone's name changes or the car they are driving changes. Drives me crazy! Otherwise, this sounds like an exciting book.

    1. Editing issues in Indie books can be an issue! I think I'm tolerant of it when I enjoyed the story but it bugs me more if I'm not enjoying the book.