Literature / Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.

A horror-comedy detective series by Kevin J. Anderson, chronicling the cases of Dan Chambeaux, private investigator in the Unnatural Quarter. Shot dead while seeking his girlfriend's murderer, Dan returns to "life" as a zombie: one of countless "unnaturals" spawned by the supernatural upheaval of the Big Uneasy. Together with his ghost-girlfriend Sheyenne, his BHF (Best Human Friend) police officer MacGoo, and Robin Dyer, his civil-rights attorney business partner, Dan tackles mysteries in which a multitude of monsters - natural and unnatural - engage in all-too-human criminal behavior, and anything could be the culprit.

Novels in the series include:
  • Death Warmed Over (2012)
  • Unnatural Acts (2013)
  • Hair Raising (2013)
  • Slimy Underbelly (2014)

Additional short stories featuring Chambeaux are compiled in the anthology Working Stiff (2015).

Tropes included in this series:

  • Accidental Misnaming / Malicious Misnaming: Could be either one: Thunder Dick claims his familiar's name is Morris, while the cat insists it's Maurice. On the one hand, Dick is an idiot who could easily be wrong; on the other, the cat's a Deadpan Snarker who could be claiming a different name just to make Dick look like one.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Spot, Rover and Fido are giant rats living in the city dump. The foreman plays fetch with them.
  • The Alleged Car: Chambeaux & Dyer uses a barely-functional Ford Maverick that's held together mostly by rust as a company car. Sheyenne nicknames it "the Pro Bono Mobile", because they'd be able to afford something better if not for Robin's continual willingness to offer free legal aid to those who can't pay.
  • All Elections Are Serious Business: Rival candidates for top Weather Wizard in the city cause havoc in Slimy Underbelly with their respective campaigns' over-the-top weather control demonstrations.
  • Artistic License Law: After Harvey Jekyll is executed, he reanimates as a zombie and is immediately set free because his legal sentence has been carried out. The possibility of keeping him in prison for the numerous non-capital crimes for which he was also convicted isn't addressed, even though Real Life death sentences are usually accompanied by prison terms for other related charges, just in case the capital conviction gets overturned on appeal.
    • Robin is guilt-shamed into taking Harvey Jekyll as a client, despite her objection that she'd previously advocated for his ex-wife in a divorce proceeding and thus, has a conflict of interest. The fact that Harvey'd tried to kill Robin herself in the first book would be a far, far better justification for her to reject his demand for her services, but neither she nor Dan mention it.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Two recurring characters are a pair of witch sisters, one of whom was transformed permanently into a sow due to a typo in a book of spells.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: Cockatrice fighting in Hair Raising.
  • Boom, Headshot: Dan died this way, and keeps the exit hole it left in his forehead concealed with morticians' putty.
  • Brain Food: Down-and-out zombies are susceptible to an addiction to eating brains.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Dan can't have sex with his girlfriend Sheyenne because she's a ghost, unable to touch anything animate. In Unnatural Acts, they find a stopgap solution: Sheyenne can manipulate inanimate objects, so she wears gloves to hold Dan's hand and offers to possess a blow-up doll for intimate relations. Dan turns the latter down, content to just hold her/it.
  • Chocolate Baby: The Eldritch Abomination from Slimy Underbelly, born with a tentacled head and a human body. In this case, it's the human body that his Cosmic Horror parents weren't expecting....
  • City with No Name: It's unstated which city the Unnatural Quarter is a part of, although it's definitely in the United States. A comment by Dan about accents implies it's not in the South, and passing remarks imply it's nowhere near Montana or the Dakotas. We do know it's a death-penalty state.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Esther the harpy's bad luck charm from Hair Raising, which she can only get rid of if someone else accepts it from her.
  • Covers Always Lie: Dan is always depicted on the book covers as pallid enough that his zombie-hood is obvious, but looks much more human in the stories. The first two novels also show him in the classic "detective trenchcoat", despite his bullet-holed sport jacket being a signature garment for Chambeaux.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: The first case Dan is shown working on is that of a ghost artist who's having a feud with his heirs: they don't want him to start painting again, because his pre-mortem paintings' value will plummet if they aren't his "last work" anymore.
  • Desperate Object Catch: In Unnatural Acts, the villain threatens to smash a highly-volatile bottled soul if Dan and his friends don't back off. When the villain is grabbed from behind, the jar is dropped and Dan dives underneath it, letting it strike his own body rather than the floor so it won't crack and explode.
  • Disability Immunity: Being a ghost is usually a bother for Sheyenne, but it does make her immune to many threats, including the bomb she carries away for disposal in Unnatural Acts and the pureblooded cockatrice's petrifying ugliness in Hair Raising.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Senator Balfour's followers are an obvious satire of America's Tea Party activists and Westboro Baptist Church.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Dan Chambeaux isn't fond of his nickname of "Shamble", because it reminds him of the badly-decomposed zombies called "shamblers" for their decrepit lack of coordination.
    • Thunder Dick the weather wizard is an inversion: he actually chose to be called that, but picked a nickname that everyone else finds embarrassing.
  • Familiar: Morris/Maurice, the talking cat companion of Thunder Dick, is not happy about being an example of this trope. At least, not for a master like Thunder Dick.
  • Fantastic Ghetto: The Unnatural Quarter, which is itself divided into "ethnic" neighborhoods of sorts (e.g. Little Transylvania, the sewers). Justified in the latter case by different Unnatural types' physical needs, as with prohibitions on street lighting where darkness-loving species predominate.
  • Fantastic Racism: Anti-unnatural prejudice is personified by Straight Edge and Senator Balfour's followers. Golems aren't even regarded as unnaturals, but as tools, by many. Full-time "Hairball" werewolves and transforming "Monthly" werewolves don't much like each other in Hair Raising.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Zombies, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, trolls, ogres, gremlins, harpies, banshees, demons, golems, witches, wizards, cockatrices, gnomes and the Phantom of the Opera all exist in this world.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Sheldon Fennerman, Tiffany, Linda Bullwer, and Anton Stickler are prominent examples of this.
  • Gag Haircut: The reason the Parlour (BNF) isn't getting much business in Hair Raising is that Rova is such a bad stylist, she gives everyone one of these.
  • Gasshole: Tony Cralo, grossly-overweight zombie mob boss. In his case, it's outgassing from decomposition, not digestive issues.
  • Giving Them the Strip: Both Dan and Lurrm slip away from the sewer-tentacles by shedding their jacket.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The experimental heart transplant in Hair Raising.
  • Harping on About Harpies: Esther, terrible and vindictive waitress at the Ghoul's Diner.
  • Helping Hands: C.H., towel-boy and masseur at the Recompose Spa.
  • I'm Melting: The gruesome fate of unnaturals poisoned by the contaminated JLPN products.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Played with. While not every case Dan investigates is the fault of a given novel's main villain, characters or Macguffins from subplots often provide a convenient means of resolving otherwise-unrelated cases.
  • The Klutz: Furguson, ultra-clumsy adolescent werewolf from Hair Raising. Possibly the only person ever to contract lycanthropy by accidentally scratching himself on his uncle's claws.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Slimy Underbelly has a Cthulhu-knockoff villain and Senior Citizen Gods. The Big Uneasy itself was unleashed due to an unlikely accident with the original Necronomicon.
  • Mad Scientist: Quite a few of them are around, including the Unnatural Quarter's medical examiner. The fact that mad scientists tend to be named "Victor" is both lampshaded and subverted, as it's the M.E.'s last name.
    • Slimy Underbelly reveals that there's a Mad Scientist Patent Office, a Mad Scientist Trademark Office, and at least one Mad Scientists' Summer Camp for gifted young wannabe-examples.
  • Magic Feather: Bela the trapeze artist's medallion from "Stakeout at the Vampire Circus", which he believes he needs to activate his vampiric bat-transformations. Dan himself makes the analogy to Dumbo.
  • Meaningful Name: Hope Saldana. Missy and Irwyn Goodfellow. Stentor the ogre opera singer (once he gets his voice back).
  • Monster Mash: Pretty much every horror-story monster exists in the Dan Shamble stories' Verse.
  • Muggle Best Friend: Lampshaded with Chambeaux's BHF (Best Human Friend), McGoo.
  • Mundane Utility: A wizard acts as auctioneer in Unnatural Acts, being well practiced in reciting spells rapidly yet intelligibly. Ruth, a succubus whose touch withers plants, finds a new career at a shop that specializes in dried flower arrangements.
  • Occult Detective: Dan. Played with in that sometimes his clients are supernatural, but the actual case is something mundane like an art theft or insurance scam.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted in the backstory, in which Dan and McGoo are both divorced from women named Rhonda.
  • Organ Theft: In Hair Raising, MacGoo asks Dan's help investigating the death of a vampire whose internal organs were removed.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: They're literal lawn gnomes, made of ceramic but animated like pint-sized golems.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Two kinds of werewolf are common after the Big Uneasy: full-time Petting Zoo People nicknamed "Hairballs", and full-moon-transforming "Monthlies". The former resemble Universal's classic "Wolf Man", while the latter range from bipedal-and-passionate to quadrupedal-and-berserk when transformed. Interestingly, both types are contagious, and can infect normal humans with their claws as well as their fangs.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Zombies arise by sheer luck: one for every seventy-five deaths, heavily weighted toward suicides and murder victims. Fully sentient creatures, they occasionally do eat brains, but it's considered a tragic addiction rather than normal zombie behavior. It's mentioned that mad scientists and necromancers sometimes craft the "artificial" and "voodoo" variants, although the former aren't generally referred to as zombies.
  • Petting Zoo People: Hairball werewolves, Lurrm and the other frog-demons in Slimy Underbelly, and various passing references to lizard-people.
  • Poltergeist: Although incorporeal, Sheyenne can manipulate inanimate objects, which allows her to work as Dan and Robin's office manager and paralegal.
  • Post-Modern Magik: Lots; vampires slathering themselves with sunscreen and buying expired donor blood in bars, werewolves using oversized hair dryers, warehouse outlets for human body parts, and Harvey Jekyll's ectoplasmic defibrillators.
  • Power Tattoo: Scratch and Sniff have magical tattoos that heal their injuries. Anton Stickler applies custom Power Tattoos to clients as well as regular ones.
  • Rapid Hair Growth: In Hair Raising, a mad scientist attempts to develop a cosmetic formula that would cause instantaneous hair growth. He eventually succeeds, but only by using the stolen scalps of werewolves to create it. Then it works too well, and fills his house with hair when some of his invention drips into a clogged-up shower drain.
  • Recursive Canon: Dan's exploits become the inspiration for an in-Verse series of mystery novels. The first one shares a title with the actual first book in the series, whose events it documents, albeit with a lot more Fanservice.
  • Reference Overdosed: Virtually every page has a Shout-Out or pop-culture reference.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: Spot, Fido and Rover, the giant rats at the city dump.
  • Saving Christmas: Santa hires Dan to track down his stolen N/N list in "Naughty and Nice".
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: MacGoo's stupid Unnatural jokes aren't funny, but watching Dan squirm over them can be, particularly when he grudgingly admits to liking one of the less-lame examples, but refrains from letting on to his BHF.
  • Supervillain: In Slimy Underbelly, a boy inventor who's a bit unclear on the "villain" part of this trope aspires to become one so he can protect people. Granted, he's growing up in a world where terrifying monsters live as regular citizens, so his perspective on "villains" is justifiably different.
  • Taken for Granite: Pureblooded cockatrices are ugly enough to do this to corporeal onlookers, although domesticated ones bred for pit-fighting aren't quiiiite that hideous. When Rusty turns some of the former loose in Hair Raising, a few innocent witnesses and several of the novel's villains succumb to this trope.
  • Taking the Bullet: Dan shields Robin with his undead body when Mr. Bignome's gang attack a florist shop early in Slimy Underbelly. As the lawn gnomes' firearms are scaled-down to their size, it's more like Taking The BBs, but she still could've lost an eye without his help.
  • Talking Animal: Morris/Maurice the tuxedo cat, as well as the gator-boys and some mutant sewer rats.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Scratch and Sniff, the Monthly werewolf bikers.
  • Undead Tax Exemption: Deconstructed. Robin's career is built around stretching the legal system's boundaries to encompass unnaturals' civil rights, and she's personally established several important legal precedents. Many laws have already been changed to cope with the Big Uneasy, such as those mandating escape-latches on coffins.
  • The Unmasqued World: Zombie detective Dan Shamble solves cases in the Unnatural Quarter, a ghetto of supernaturals birthed by the Big Uneasy.
  • Vampires Own Nightclubs: Inverted with Fletcher Knowles, a human later ghost club manager whose night spot (Basilisk) caters to vampires.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Post-Big Uneasy, "blood bars" and retailers make expired donor blood available to customers. Backsliding vampires who kill humans are tried for murder and executed if caught, so even the less-than-moral ones generally refrain from preying on people.
  • Virgin Power: The Big Uneasy was unleashed when a drop of virgin's blood fell upon the Necronomicon under a full moon and during a rare astrological conjunction. A homely fifty-eight-year-old witch's blood, shed via a paper cut, but a virgin's blood nonetheless.
  • Vocal Dissonance: In Slimy Underbelly, an ogre's powerful baritone voice is magically stolen: swapped for the piping squeak of a gnome criminal, who wanted a voice suitable to command his gang of robbers.
  • What Happened To The Rats?: Some readers do wonder what became of Spot, Fido, and Rover after the dump foreman was re-killed.
  • Whodunnit to Me?: A big part of Death Warmed Over concerns Dan's hunt for his own murderer. Sheyenne accompanies him when he's looking for hers, also.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Dan gets this from a costume judge at a cosplay con he attends in the short story "Role Model".
  • Zombie Advocate: Robin's law specialty is defending unnaturals' civil rights. Mrs. Saldana, founder of a mission for down-and-out unnaturals, also gets her involved in MILDEW (Monsters' Legal Defense Workers).

Alternative Title(s): Death Warmed Over

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/DanShambleZombiePI