Historical Fiction · Modern Fantasy · Review · Young Adult

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan DennardSynopsis from Goodreads:

Philadelphia 1876. The Dead are rising. A zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor Fitt. Whoever controls the Dead Army has her brother. She avoids her mother’s choice of husband for the lab of Spirit Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel. The situation threatens her reputation, and the lives of everyone in the city.


The Dead have arisen seeking to kill the living. Eleanor is waiting for her brother at the train station when the Dead Alarm goes off. Instead of running though, she sticks around long enough to realize her brother was not on the train and he left a telegram stating as much. Desperate to find her brother, she seeks help from the Spirit Hunters, a group hired by the city to destroy the walking dead. While associating with the Spirit Hunters, she has to balance secrets, finances, and her reputation. Will the Spirit Hunters succeed in helping find her brother? Can they save Philadelphia from sure destruction?

Amazon has been recommending me to read Susan Dennard’s Something Strange and Deadly for months now. I’ve been unsure about reading it because I don’t have a particular interest in zombies and the cover leaves much to be desired. The synopsis made me believe this would be a flop. I also keep mis-remembering the title as “Something Strange and Deadly This Way Comes.” I finally caved. This is an interesting story, although there were moments where I would skim over some paragraphs while I was reading. I appreciate the end for having an unhappy ending where everything isn’t perfect.

Three characters, specifically, developed: Eleanor Fitt (of the Philadelphia Fitts), Clarence Wilcox, and Daniel Sheridan. Eleanor learns the importance and lack thereof of reputation in comparison to other weighing concerns. She also comes to realize she is a “misfit” among most groups, but especially of high society. Mr. Wilcox quickly sinks into insanity, to the point of violence. Mr. Sheridan becomes a little less focused on his inventions and faces his past. I like his humor in calling Eleanor “Empress.” The reporter’s importance feels built up when his importance isn’t all that great. As is always a concern to me, there isn’t really a love triangle, but some events cause Mrs. Fitt to believe there is one.

I don’t know much about current nor historical Philadelphia. Dennard did well with portraying settings among the upper crust of society, the Exhibition, and Laurel Hill. My only issue with Laurel Hill is that I didn’t know for over a quarter of the book that it was in Philadelphia.

With the strange ending, I look forward to reading the next book in the series. I recommend this fast-paced novel to fans of paranormal and historical fiction. A happy warning, the cliffhanger makes the end feel somewhat like L.J. Smith’s Night World series, where you won’t necessarily encounter the same characters in the next book.

Genres: Fantasy YA, Historical Fiction

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars


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