Friday 24 March 2017

#CBR9 Book 26: "The Good, the Bad and the Undead" by Kim Harrison

Page count: 468 pages
Audio book length: 14 hrs 23 mins
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is book 2 in a series. You'd be better off starting with Dead Witch Walking.

Rachel Morgan has successfully paid off the IS death threat and is in her third month of working as an independent runner. She still doesn't have a car, however, and hates relying on public transport or rides from friends to get around. She's also struggling to pay her bills from month to month, so when a werewolf pack refuses to pay her for snatching their pet fish back from another clan, she's in a bit of a bind. The FIB, the human-led, non-supernatural police force approach her for help on a new and potentially dangerous case.

There is a serial killer stalking Cincinnati, targeting layline witches. It seems the deaths occur around the full moon of every month. The FIB suspect one of the layline witches who teach at the University, and want Rachel to take one of her classes, to be able to more closely observe the woman. Rachel is deeply unhappy with the idea, as she's been flunked by this woman once before. She deeply distrusts layline magic in general and believes herself to have no aptitude for it. But as her paycheck from the FIB relies on her going back to school, she reluctantly agrees. Rachel, however, has an alternate suspect in the murders. She believes Trent Kalamack is behind the deaths, and works hard to find a connection between him and the victims, so they can get a search warrant for his compound.

Kalamack, however, professes his innocence and claims he is being framed by someone very powerful. He even offers to pay Rachel to clear his name. Speaking to him, she figures out that the demon attacks that she and Trent both survived a few months ago are connected to the case, and that they were in fact supposed to be the killer's first victims. Much as she dislikes and distrusts Trent, even Rachel doesn't believe he'd have himself nearly killed by a demon to prove his innocence. She needs to go looking for the murderer somewhere else, but is an individual powerful enough to summon an demon to kill for them someone she wants to go chasing after?

Having dealt with the heavy lifting in terms of set-up with regards to characterisation and world-building in the first book, Harrison is free to expand further here and get her protagonist into deeper trouble than before. She starts the book with Rachel and Jenks in the middle of a mission that ends rather tensely and the action doesn't really slow down for long over the course of the book.

While Rachel is brave and loyal, she's also stubborn, impulsive and frequently acts before she thinks. I don't know if I really noticed before how hostile and downright insulting she can be to other members of her gender (Ivy the notable exception). I know I did notice on this re-read, and the way she will frequently refer in derogatory terms to other women she dislikes bothered me. She's also rather rigid in her moral code in these early books, so very afraid to veer off the path of the righteous white witch, a little bit quick to judge most other people who have made more questionable choices in their life. She has a long way to go, that's for certain.

Her relationship with Ivy continues to be fraught with some tension, as it's quite clear that her vampire roommate is both physically attracted to her and wants Rachel's blood. Rachel is still very firm about a) being straight and b) terrified at the idea of being fed from, especially after her savage attack in the previous book. Nick, Rachel's human boyfriend is wary of the relationship and keeps trying to persuade her to move in with him instead. It's not his discomfort with Rachel's living situation which causes the biggest rift between them, however. Unfortunately, after Rachel makes a mistake during one of her layline classes, their relationship changes from happy to rather fraught due to the added strains Rachel's cock-up engenders.

I mentioned in my first review that Trent and Algaliarept, the demon who initially appears trying to murder Rachel, are among my favourite characters in the whole series. This book has prominent appearances by both and while I get why Rachel is so extremely determined to put Trent behind bars, I was very happy that she instead indirectly ends up clearing his name to the FIB instead. This is also the book where Rachel finally figures out the deep dark mystery of whether Trent is an Inderlander or not. Is he just a human who uses magic to seem more mysterious, or is he some sort of supernatural? I remember being rather delighted with the reveal the first time I read the book, and the scene where she deduces her way to the right answer is still an excellent one. While she tells Ivy, they both decide to keep their discovery a secret from their pixy partner, Jenks, a mistake which will come back to haunt them later.

While only the second book in the series, this is a really good installment and as I mentioned previously, there is a lot of action. Rachel has a knack for getting herself into some pretty uncomfortable and dangerous situations and the final show-down at the end of this one is a memorable one. I'm very glad that I didn't feel the need to adjust my previous rating of this book in any way.

Judging a book by its cover: While I really do like this series a LOT, the book covers are not the reason. While this one is better than the one on Dead Witch Walking, it's not exactly great, with the cover model in a dress shorter and skimpier than even Rachel would wear (especially when doin
g layline magic, which she hates). The pentagram and the lit candle hint at some of the magic done in the book, but the outfit and super awkward pose of the model's legs still annoy me.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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