by John Levitt

Ace, $7.99, 288 pages

Play Dead is a story of unceasing conflict and suspense framed in a fantasy format. In present-day San Francisco there are a few people with magical talents, along with their pets who are even more talented. The practitioners of magic are split into two groups: white magic practitioners and dark magic practitioners. It’s not hard to figure out that each group has different and opposing motivations. Ordinary people however, are unaware of any of this. This story concerns a dark practitioner whose motive is actually well-intentioned, but her methods decidedly are not. In fact, as the story progresses, she proves to be fanatical in her purpose to the point of insanity.

Our main character—the white magic practitioner Mason, plus his magical dog Lou, (a real cutie), and their friends, must foil the dark practitioner at considerable risk to life, limb and sanity. The writing is proficient enough that this story can really depress one’s spirits, as it did for this reviewer. And the ending proved to be a “cliff hanger”—an overly obvious introduction to a sequel. Of course there are readers who will greatly enjoy this type of story, and because of the competent writing, I recommend it only to them.

Rosalie West