Sunday, August 14, 2011

Working Stiff by Rachel Caine

It kind of sucks to be Bryn Davis. Discovering a rough job market upon her discharge from the military, she attended mortuary school. She'd been around enough death, she figured, to understand the importance of a professional, soothing presence in the lives of grieving survivors making arrangements for their loved ones. Now she's found a great job as a funeral director at a swanky private funeral home in La Jolla, California, and on her first day at work her only slightly smarmy boss takes her to lunch at a fancy French restaurant.

Hey, wait a minute, all that doesn't sound sucky. She's got a great job, an okay boss, and she lives in La Jolla. What's not to envy? Well, on day one she's accosted by a creepy co-worker, she finds the daughter of a client dead of a very bloody suicide in the funeral home's restroom, and oh, later that night she's killed.

Bryn is revivified by the security team of Pharmadene, the big pharma company that accidentally developed a revivification drug, aptly enough named Returne. These two hotties are there surveilling her boss, who may be running a nasty little drug ring out of the office. Now, Bryn is an unwilling employee of Pharmadene, which won't supply the daily dose of Returne she needs to maintain her gorgeous undead self unless she plays ball.

So yeah, it sucks to be Bryn.

Rachel Caine is the author of, among other things, the popular--and fun!--Weather Warden urban fantasy series. That series, which started out literally with a bang and followed that up with a high speed car chase, features Joanne Baldwin, a wise-cracking clothes horse with supernatural powers. It's had its dark moments, but the pace and the fun has never let up. Zombies being as hot as they now are, and as much fun as diverse sorts of writers are having with them, zombies and Rachel Caine would seem to be a natural fit. 

And, possibly in book two of the Revivalist series that will be the case. But Working Stiff, clever as it is and attractive and charming as the three main characters are, never really gets off the ground. There are brief glimpses of the characters's potential to be as interesting as Joanne Baldwin and her friends, and the interplay among the three is often diverting, but it never truly gels, though the action is good. It's just not very much fun. And, on a side note, I kept marveling at Ms. Caine's missed opportunity to take advantage of the unbelievably beautiful and interesting La Jolla setting. Zombies and Southern California--what could be more perfect together? But except for a stray reference or two early on this novel could have been set anywhere in the States.

Here's hoping the next installment in the Revivalist series finds the fun.


Shawn said...

Zombies and Southern California? Of course you are correct about the potential there. Just look at our store. Or for that matter drive down to orange county and walk through one of the mega-plex malls. Good lord, all the zombies walking around with one ear bud hanging out of their ears and a self-justified sense of faded irony. George Romero himself would cringe.
Great review by the by.

Rebecca Glenn said...

Ha! One of the filmmakers in the store should do an after hours shoot. A zombie picture set among the super cozy dog beds and gripper slippers. I'd watch it.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Hope the next one is better. It does sound like there is a lot of potential.