Calliope Reaper-Jones is living a perfectly normal life until she discovers that she is not, in fact, perfectly normal. Her dad's Death, and he's been kidnapped, leaving Death, Inc. with no one in charge. Now it's up to her to complete three tasks and regain control of the company before the Devil's totally hot protégé takes her job. And then she can find her dad and all that.
Let's cut right to it: if it were not written by Amber Benson, I probably wouldn't have made it past the first few chapters. Because, while the prose is perfectly competent, the voice is so not targeted to me. Calliope may be in her twenties, but she talks like a bubble-headed teenage girl. If I had a dollar for every italicized not in the book, I could buy seventeen more copies. There are a lot of italicized words. And more than a few words in "quotes" for no good reason. It makes for a very fluffy reading experience, which is just what I needed.
I really enjoyed the treatment of Death as a corporation (Death, Inc.) that answers to a Board. Death's (and then Calliope's) Executive Assistant, a faun named Jarvis, is very amusing and one of the more memorable characters; his interactions with Calliope are always fun. Another memorable character is Kali. Yeah, I said Kali, the Hindu goddess of death. I've got to give props for the inclusion of folks like Kali and Indra even though Benson basically just uses the names. I kept thinking of American Gods, which made me believe that the gods in the book really were the gods; Benson puts a more modern spin on the characters, which means they only resemble their mythological counterparts superficially. Which is true of the worldbuilding in general. I liked the idea of Death as a corporation, but I think more could have been done with that concept. cadhla's main complaint was that the cosmology wasn't very well thought out, and while I wasn't incredibly bothered by it, I see what she means. Amber Benson mixes a lot of different mythologies and religions—which is fun and something I like, especially when I Google stuff and learn about new mythological figures—and pays about one line of lip service as to why; otherwise, there isn't really a clear explanation for why the world works the way it does, especially because all the other figures are integrated into a Judeo-Christian framework. Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven all exist, but then there are other dimensional realms for some reason? Magic will save the day if the plot demands it. It's all fine if you don't think about it too hard and just go with the story, which is enjoyable.
I was all set to give the book a fairly middling review, and then the last hundred pages happened. Finally, the book got cool and interesting enough to overcome any irritating issues I had with the writing! The book in general is very well paced and reads quickly, but it wasn't until the end that I realized that it had also been pretty well plotted, too. It's supposed to be the first in a trilogy, but it functions fine as a stand-alone, with most loose ends tied up.
Overall, I liked it. It's a decent book, nothing spectacular. Would I recommend it to someone who doesn't care that it's written by Amber Benson? Eh, maybe not, on the assumption that there are better books in the genre out there (even though I'm not familiar with the genre). But it's an entertaining diversion that eventually features a headless zombie, so I certainly can't not recommend it.