Crime and Ghosts: Dianne Dean reviews ‘What the Dead Said’ by D.J. Daniels

What the Dead Said by D.J. Daniels. Dragonfall Press 2012

dead-said-cover-593x700I got this book to review on a Thursday and promised myself I would start reading on the weekend but before the day was over I found myself leaning over the back of the couch with the first chapter open in my hands. What attracted me was the book’s interesting premise – everyone in the world can now see ghosts, except Sckel, and he is employed to solve cases that involve the ghosts he cannot see or hear. Oh, also the fact that the action is set in a future Sydney – got to love it when an author successfully gives an Australian feel to a story.

D.J. Daniels brings good humour to this novel with many deft modern day references that adds depth to the plot as parallel circumstances echo off each other. (Should I worry that I understood them all?)

It seems inconvenient for a detective to be unable to see the very ghosts he needs to investigate, relying on the reports “What the Dead Said” – the recording of a ghost’s testimony by vampires. But on the other hand,  this same lack often enables Sckel to be objective in his investigations and unaffected by the sight of apparitions that, let’s face it, have sometimes let themselves go after death.  Dying of fright was a common occurrence in the early days of the ghosts becoming visible until the living population became inured, if not entirely comfortable, with the daily horrors they observed.

And it soon becomes obvious that ghosts are, well, just people – albeit dead ones. Just as the living, they have their own agendas and are just as capable of attempting to manipulate events to achieve their goals. In a series of cases, Sckel begins to uncover a plot to open the gateway between the living and the dead even further to give the ghosts more access to our world.

So, what else do we have?

An eccentric but very very rich inventor that provides useful gadgets and assistance but you are not always entirely sure whose side he is on.

A sidekick detective that is quite willing to be distracted by a pretty face and a gut feeling.

A medium who could see ghosts before other people could and now made a living renting her body out for possession.

A robot (well, he hasn’t decided if he is a robot or something else yet) that has decided to help Sckel out.

And these characters are just a part of promising cast of strangeness that underpins the adventures of our Sckel.

D. J. Daniels has a nice conversational style to her writing that does much to support the telling of this story. This is a good read but I also found it frustrating. Sometimes felt as if not enough was done with the characters and the situations presented to us. I wanted to know more about Sckel and why he was chosen to work for an organisation that not only required skills he doesn’t seem to possess but also why he accepted as it seems a place he doesn’t entirely want to be. And sometimes the narrative seemed disjointed – things happen that don’t seem to quite make sense or have little contribution to the plot. Ghosts apparently influence people but it seemed the only people that were influenced were those that wanted to be in the first place (Which is a pretty human thing in the first place).

But please don’t think I am condemning this novel or its author. The humour and the ideas encapsulated are worth the read.

And I will definitely be looking out for more work by D. J. Daniels.

– Dianne Dean


Dianne Dean is based in North East Victoria. Her first children’s book is currently with a publisher and will be released in early 2013. She can be found at

What the Dead Said is available from

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