I don’t often re-read books. I intend to. It gives me a reason for all those bookshelves. But rarely do it because every day brings new books I haven’t read yet and it’s hard to resist the “Ooh… SHINY” appeal of the unread.
“The Third Death Of The Little Clay Dog” was an exception. I first read this novella about eight years ago when it was one of four pieces in the “Mean Streets” anthology. I bought the collection for the stories by Jim Butcher and Thomas E. Sniegoski, but it was Kat Richardson, a writer I hadn’t read before, who made the strongest impression.
Her story of Harper Blaine, who can see and talk with the dead, being given a bequest from a rich woman she doesn’t know, provided she places a small clay dog on a particular man’s grave in southern Mexico on the Day of the Dead was so full well done that it got me started on the Gray Walker” series and it’s stayed in my head ever since.
This story packs a lot into just under one-hundred pages: introducing Harper Blaine and her weird ability to see and interact with the dead, a mystery about why a dead woman wants a clay dog placed on a grave, creepy corrupt lawyers, a cute ghost dog, a sulky teenager with unsuspected (by him at least) abilities and an authentic-feeling description of the way in which the dead are celebrated by their descendants and loved ones in Oaxaca City.
I particularly liked the explanation of the third death concept: the first death is the day we die, the second is the day we’re interred, the third death is when there is no one left who remembers us. As an atheist with no expectation of an afterlife, this seems to me to be a very appropriate way for the living to understand the death of people who matter to them.