Kathy Davie's Reviews > Working Stiff

Working Stiff by Rachel Caine
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Aug 21, 12

Read in July, 2012

First in the Revivalist horrifying urban fantasy series based in San Diego and revolving around Bryn Davis, a former soldier who takes a job working in a mortuary.

I'd have given it a "3", but there was just too much lame action and inconsistencies on the part of the female protagonist. If you're feeling uncritical and in need of some horror, you might enjoy this.


My Take
Oh, yuck! Actually, it is well-written...hey, it's Rachel Caine! My objection is to yet another stupid female protagonist. Bryn's been in the army, in Iraq. She talks about being under fire and waddling into dangerous situations lumbered down by pounds of weapons, vests, ammo, etc. About having been trained in urban warfare. Why then is she so stupid when she gets out of the army? Er...duh...maybe that's the real reason she left.

Then there's her childhood background. I'd'a thought Bryn would be a lot more savvy, instead, she behaves more like a suburban highschooler. Just pathetic. Loose thread there, Caine, at the end, why isn't Bry asking or wondering about Mr. French? He's certainly been on her mind every other time. Although, her reaction to her situation and those who, um, caused it, is realistic. Actually, she's a lot nicer than I would have been!

Then there's the basic premise behind this series. Oh, yuck. This may technically be urban fantasy, but to my mind, it's horror! A drug that brings people back to life with hidden command protocols. A drug that the newly revived must take daily for the rest of their unnatural, undead life. That's scary enough, but then there's the romance between two of the protagonists---one's undead and the other is not. Every time I imagined this---of course, it didn't help with Caine describing what happens if the undead person goes more than a few days without the drug---I just got all kinds of nasty, squidgy, ick feelings.

The activities in this story just don't seem well thought-out. Pharmadene spends a ton of money so Bryn can be very comfortably "undercover", but they moan and groan about the cost of the shot. Nor do I see how Harte could build up her little army without someone noticing. I have a hard time buying McCallister as player or man-whore. Sure, Caine is using the words, but she ain't making me buy into it. Nor am I buying Bryn letting her little sister hang out. She knows the kind of danger she's in and she doesn't consider that her sister may be used as leverage?? Just too contrived.

This is a cold bunch of people even though I do understand their reasoning. I probably will read Two Weeks' Notice if only out of morbid curiosity.


The Story
Bryn's paid her dues. She got her college education with some help from the army. Now she may be surrounded by dead people, but at least she's not the one making them dead. Anymore. Only, Bryn discovers how wrong she is. Her first day on the job and everything falls apart.

The only way McCallister can justify providing Bryn with the shot is if she helps them find out who is stealing the drug and selling it on the black market. Whoever it is, he's good, but it's one betrayal after another with Bryn's very iffy future ahead of her.


The Characters
Bryn Davis is a 26-year-old woman starting her first day on the job. A real job with a proper office and crisp, new business cards! At the Fairview Mortuary. Mr. French is her very protective pet bulldog. Annalie is her flaky sister. Considering how much she battens off her sister, she's amazingly judgmental.

Mr. Fairview is the fourth generation to run Fairview Mortuary. A very elegant, classy gentleman whom Bryn looks up to. Fast Freddy Watson is the creepy restoration man and Lucy is the very knowledgeable receptionist. Riley Block is a choice find! And she's really great at her embalming job with her own deep secrets.

Patrick McCallister is in charge of Pharmadene's security and is playing his own endgame. He's got one helluva past. Liam is his butler, er, I mean, his trust administrator. Irene Harte is McCallister's bitch of a boss. Cold and arrogant, she has lots of plans which her co-workers won't appreciate. Joe Fideli first shows up as a potential client for the mortuary, but quickly reveals his more decisive side. That semiauto in his hand is kind of a giveaway. I liked him. He's happily married to Kylie and they have three kids: Jeff, Harry, and baby Juliet. And, yeah, Kylie knows all about his type of security.

Pharmadene is a pharmaceutical company which has inadvertently discovered Returné, a drug that will bring people back from the dead. They keep tabs on every aspect of every employee's life right up and beyond death. What happens to Violetta Sampson certainly puts things in perspective. Jonathan Mercer and Sams created the drug. Sams is dead and Mercer is on the run.

Manny Glickman is a brilliant and excessively paranoid scientist who is something of a sociopath. He does, however, have a couple of saving graces. Pansy Taylor certainly seems to think so.


The Cover
At first glance, the cover appears to be situated in a palace with its high arching window bracketed by pillars, the old stone floor, a darker stone forming the wainscoting, and wallpaper peeling away from the upper wall. But then you notice the arched iron doors on either side. Just the right height for a fancy burial vault. That's just the background. Bryn herself has a cocky pose, legs braced as wide as her tight black skirt allows, hands on hips, and her long blonde hair lifting in a breeze. She's in three-quarter profile with her head turned to look out at us. One determined lady.

The title sums it all up. Bryn is most definitely a Working Stiff in every sense of the word.
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