I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
I was iffy about this novella at first. I got it because I had heard lots of good things about Jordan Castillo Price's writing, and because the review of this novella on Dear Author intrigued me. However, Vic did not immediately endear himself to me. I wasn't a fan of his clearly habitual overuse of Auracel, and his quickie sexual encounter with Detective Marks in the bathroom at his partner's retirement party had me wincing.
I'm not quite sure when it happened, but Vic grew on me, and now I really, really want the rest of this series. I absolutely loved Vic's “voice” (the novella is from his perspective). He was so paranoid and frazzled that I had to laugh, at times. The way he went through suits reminded me a little of Stephanie Plum's habit of going through cars. I began to understand his habit of taking a little too much Auracel after reading about a few of his spirit encounters. It's not something Price beats readers over the head with, but it's clear that Vic regularly sees lots of things that would make the average person wonder about his sanity, and much of what he sees is less than pleasant. At one point, he strains hard enough to see the ghost of a dead goldfish, and there's a part where he encounters the ghost of a baby who was left to die in a stairwell in his apartment building.
Besides Vic, I also liked Vic's new partner, Lisa Gutierrez, and I hope she shows up in future books and novellas in this series. I think the character I liked the least was Detective Jacob Marks. I think Price intended for readers to find him sexy, but, from his first appearance, I hoped that he and Vic weren't going to end up as a couple. Regardless of the last lines of the novella and what Gutierrez told Vic, something about Marks made me think he was more interested in Vic for his paranormal abilities than anything else. I couldn't bring myself to trust him, and I even thought he'd turn out to be the murderer. I still kind of expect him to be revealed as a bad guy in a future book/novella, but, if not, it'll be interesting to see if Price can eventually make me like him.
I loved the way Price handled the psychic abilities. At the moment, it looks like there is probably a limited (but large?) number of psychic ability types, with various levels within those types. Even though Vic is a fairly high level psychic medium, that doesn't make him all-powerful, not even just within his work life – as he says at one point, the spirits of murdered people can lie or be confused, just like the living. He can get information that normal people can't, but that doesn't mean the information is necessarily of any use. I liked that every one of the psychic abilities that cropped up in this novella had limitations and created weaknesses in the psychics. For example, Vic had to put a huge amount of effort into finding an apartment he could live in without regular interruptions from ghosts, and Carolyn can't lie.
Usually, even with good novellas, I find myself thinking “Well, that was nice, but if it had been longer this or that could have been expanded more, and it really felt like it was leading into a larger work.” That wasn't the case with Among the Living, which felt just as long as it needed to be, didn't seem like an excerpt from a longer work, and still managed to make me want to read more. I'm glad I've already purchased Criss Cross, the next work in the series (although there's a freebie, Thaw, that I'll have to download and read, too). If I end up liking that as much as I liked Among the Living, I'll probably bite the bullet and buy the rest of the series, with or without a sale.
When I first purchased this novella, there were no spaces between paragraphs, and paragraphs weren't indented, which would have made for some painful reading. I reported the issue to AllRomance, and they had a fixed copy available for re-download within a day. Thank you, AllRomance and JCP Books!
(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)