Dead Man In A Ditch By Luke Arnold – A Book Review

Dead man in a ditch


Fetch Philips has nothing left to believe in. Which is why he’s surprised when the people of Sunder City start to believe in him

Rumour has it that Fetch is the only one who can bring magic back into the world. So when a man is murdered in a way that can only be explained as magical, Fetch is brought in on the case. A case which just might unearth things best left buried…


Author: Luke Arnold

Publisher: Orbit

Pages: 448

Release Date: 22/09/2020

Series: Fetch Phillips Archives #2

Genre: Fantasy

My Chosen Format: Kindle

My Rating of ‘Dead Man in a Ditch’: 3 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon UKAmazon USAudible UKAudible US



I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

After enjoying The Last Smile in Sunder City, and having only a few minor problems with it (mostly the unnecessary amount of unnecessarily long of info-dumps) I was excited to see where Luke Arnold took Fetch Phillips next.

There’s a lot going on in Dead Man In A Ditch, but it never really feels like a novel with any real depth. For me, that’s mostly due to the characters. The villains have a pantomime vibe to them and the good characters just seem a bit two-dimensional. The grey area characters are the most interesting, but even they feel like it’s mostly because the author keeps changing his mind on a whim rather than them having actual depth or conflicting emotions.

The story being told was good, but it felt so very long and drawn out. It was often hampered by random decisions that just happened to be correct, character reactions that felt unrealistic and forced and the seemingly invincibility of Fetch Phillips. 

I never really felt like Fetch was in any real danger of struggling, let alone failing in anything he set out to do. Everything just seemed to come far too easily for him and, if an event was beyond his sphere of influence it would just work out well in a way that benefited him. The author made sure that Fetch kept his title of Sunder City’s favourite punching bag (he had so many beatings, injuries or just sheer near-death experiences that I don’t see how anyone could keep going as he did. Especially on a diet of painkillers and coffee.)

One really good aspect of this book was the complete lack of those short-story length info dumps. This time around, if something like that was needed, it was told through Fetch or one of his experiences that felt relevant. This way was infinitely better than simply stopping the narrative mid-flow to give a ten page history on giants, vampires or dwarfs.

Luke’s writing style is a big draw for me with this series. Every page has a very ‘gallows humour’ feel to it as Fetch steps out onto the streets of Sunder City to face events that could very well bring about his ruin. In my head I see Miller from the Expanse when I think of Fetch. He doesn’t have the strength of conviction that Miller has, though. In fact, he doesn’t appear to have any conviction at all. I lost count of the amount of times he changed his main aims throughout the novel purely because someone said ‘don’t do that, it’s not nice’.  The author tried to pass it off as deep musings within Fetch, almost like two aspects of his character warring amongst themselves. What it read like was someone who had no idea what they wanted to do next and kept changing their mind because they really hadn’t got a feel for what they wanted. It felt indecisive and off-putting to me, but I suppose other readers may have viewed it differently.

The world of Sunder City is making rapid progress from book to book and becoming more and more like our own, be that for good or ill, and it certainly makes for an interesting point to watch. The ongoing plot of trying to get the magic back keeps me interested and partners well with Fetch’s constant state of misery and despair. After all, the amount of guilt the man has to live with on a daily basis would keep most people at home in bed.

I feel there’s a fair bit that could be improved upon, but it’s still a series I’m excited to follow. I could simply be expecting too much and looking too deep. If you enjoy a fun fantasy frollick pitting good, grey and evil characters amongst one another, this is certainly an enjoyable page turner.

There were definite improvements made in this book as far as storytelling is concerned, I just feel that character-wise there were a couple of stalled steps or, indeed, a few steps back. It was mostly Fetch’s constant swapping and changing his mind that made me mark this down so much. Just came off a bit weak in the character department. Other than that, it was a fun read.

14 thoughts on “Dead Man In A Ditch By Luke Arnold – A Book Review

    1. I know what you mean. What’s worse, it’s literally marketed as ‘if you liked Rivers of London …’ so it’s not even trying to hide the similarity.

      It does a good job, story-wise, of being very different and quite similar to that all at the same time.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The series is good, but not great. It’s very obvious that it’s Luke’s first series. And, were he not an actor with an already established fanbase and some name value behind him, I honestly doubt he’d have been picked up. That’s just my thoughts, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wouldn’t’ve thought that this would’ve been your reintroduction to fantasy. The first one was rather dark and morose, so I’m not surprised that the second continues. It sucks that the character of Fetch was underdeveloped. Oh well… Do you think you’ll continue the series?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I’ll carry on as I feel like there’s improvements being made and I’m curious where things go. But I’ll go in with low expectations.

      On the plus side, I’m really enjoying Ashes of the Sun … even if the mask he’s wearing clearly points towards a one-eyed man so should keep Gyre about as incognito as Clark Kent’s glasses should in Superman 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What are you talking about? It’s a foolproof disguise. Fool. Proof. Proof of fools 😂

        btw how’re you liking the Odyssey dlc? I saw your were into it a few days ago but have been playing Amalur on the ps3 and it won’t show me any updates

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m really liking it. The story for Legacy of the first blade was awesome. Just about finished chapter 1 of Atlantis. It’s a good place to get money and resources. Zero mercenaries equals zero unexpected expense 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This cover just feels like a cheap copy of the Ben Aaronovich series… oh some one already pointed thst out🙈. Ive not even read the other series, but i know the books thanks to my wife🙂. Good review mate

    Liked by 1 person

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