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Bryn's first embalming instructor had told her, straight up, that two kinds of people entered the death business: freaks and true believers. Bryn Davis didn't think she was either one of those. For her, it was a prime career opportunity—a genuine profession.
Oh, she'd picked up odd paychecks during college as an office temp, dog-walker, and one memorable afternoon at a chicken factory, but none of those had ever felt real to her. Joining the Army after college had seemed like a good idea at the time (steady job, good wages), but four years in Iraq hadn't made her want be a career solider; it had, though, given her a bedrock understanding of the fragility of human life. After that, dead bodies didn't scare or disgust her.
One good thing she could say for her time in the military: it had led her where she was now, to this job… a good, stable one, and even better, an importantone.
Bryn smiled a little at the thought. Maybe she was a true believer, after all.
She smoothed the white lab coat—with her name stitched right on the left breast—and felt a warm surge of accomplishment. Bryn Davis, Funeral Director, Fairview Mortuary. Her business cards rested in a neat little cardboard box on her shiny new desk, all sober black ink in raised type, with the Fairview logo embossed in the corner. They wouldn't stay in the box for long; Fairview had furnished her with nice wooden desk accents, including a business card holder, and just as soon as possible, she intended to make that desk her own. She'd never had her own office before.
The cards and desk were elegant, like everything here. The room was neat and clean, filled with sober antique furniture and soft, dark cloth. Deep carpets. Subtle fragrances. Not a lot of flowers to overwhelm the already raw senses of the grieving.
She was a little nervous, but she also felt proud, and happy. In fact, she feltready. She tried not to feel too happy, though; it didn't seem appropriate to be so glee-filled about starting a job that was all about someone else's loss. The mirror on the wall confirmed that there was still a smile hiding in the corners of her mouth that she couldn't quite get rid of, and for a moment, she worried about the shade of her lipstick. She'd chosen a light pink, but was it too light? A little too festive? She'd spent too many years in khaki, far away from the fairy-tale world of Maybelline.
There was a knock on her office door, and before she could say come in, it swung open to admit the head man… Lincoln Fairview. Mr. Fairview was the fourth Fairview to operate the funeral home, and he looked the part, from his sober, well-tailored suit to his impeccably cut gray hair and soft, kindly face.
She felt her whole body jolt with adrenaline when she saw him. This was the man she had to impress with her professionalism. Hoo boy. She worried, again, about the lipstick.
He crossed the room with a confident stride and shook her hand. "Hello, Bryn, good morning. How are you settling in?"
She unbuttoned the lab coat and put it on the hanger in the small closet. Even the hangers were solid wood, and nicer than anything in her apartment wardrobe. "Everything's fine, sir," she said, and glanced down at herself to be sure she still looked okay. Her business suit was new, and a little stiff, but it was a solid dove-gray color, and the soft pink shirt seemed like a nice match. Her new gray pumps pinched her toes, and she was afraid she was going to have to wear out the blisters they were bound to raise, but overall… she thought she was presentable. Except for the lipstick, maybe. "Am I properly dressed?"
He gave her an x-ray stare, up and down, and then nodded. "Perfect," Mr. Fairview said. "Soothing, professional, everything I could ask. Perhaps a touch less on the lipstick next time; a pretty girl like you really doesn't need to emphasize her youth and beauty. Go on, have a seat, Bryn."
Oh, she knew it, the lipstick sucked. Bryn tried not to seem nervous as she settled into her leather chair on the other side of the desk. Mr. Fairview stayed on his feet. He studied her for a few seconds, and then said, "I assume that in your course work, you did live role play on handling difficult clients."
"Uh—yes, sir." What an odd way to start… she'd at least expected to get a tour of the building, maybe an introduction to the staff. At least she'd thought he'd show her the coffee machine and the bathroom. Pretend he's your new commanding officer, she told herself, and that steadied her; she'd gone through plenty of those meetings, and she knew the drill. Impress them early, and a lot, and they'll never bother you again. Bryn felt her spine straighten to military correctness. "Shall I be—?"
"You'll be you. I'll be your client. Let me go out and come back, and we'll get started."
She steeled herself as he left the room, hastily blotted her lipstick with a tissue. She missed her lab coat. Her lab coat had given her an air of… scientific detachment, and there was always something comforting about wearing a uniform.
This time, when the knock came at the door, Bryn stood and walked around her desk to meet him, shaking his hand and making and holding eye contact, just as she would have to establish her bona fides back in the war zones. Firm handshake, not too firm; chin up, eyes steady and straight. Convey a sense of solid competence and trustworthiness. "Sir, thank you for coming to Fairview. Please, have a seat. How may I assist you today?"
She indicated the sofa and chairs grouped in the corner of the office. Mr. Fairview took a place on the sofa, looked around, and leaned forward as she settled into a polite, alert pose on the chair—within reach, but giving him space. "I'm sure that this is a very hard day for you," she said, in her most soothing voice. This, at least, was something she felt confident doing, even on her first morning of the job. "How can I help?"
Mr. Fairview didn't even give her a nod of approval. He stared over her shoulder instead. "It's my brother," he said. "He passed away yesterday."
"I'm so sorry." Bryn knew how to steer the conversation; she'd been through the training, and she knew better than to ask the emotional questions immediately. "May I get you a coffee, or tea, or—"
Fairview's gaze shifted to her face. "He was hit by a truck."
She had an instant, vivid flashback of the armored personnel carrier, of a screaming face outside the dust-smeared window, of the crushing thump of the wheels. Of the body in the dirt, blood leaking dark into the packed road, head crushed into a shape that was no longer human.
Bryn took a deep breath and forced the images away. Focus, she thought. He's talking about reconstruction work. That was pricey, a definite plus for the business. "That must have been a terrible shock."
"It certainly was for him."
Oh God, was he trying to make her laugh? Bryn didn't feel any inclination to it; the memory of that body in the road had drained all the laughter out of her. Her voice, when it came, was just a shade too cool. "I meant for you, sir."
"I never liked him anyway. Now I'm stuck paying for him. Dumb son of a bitch never knew how to drive anyway. I want the lowest price you can give me, understand? I'm not spending a cent more on his drunken corpse than I have to."
Bryn opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She'd had a course section on dealing with aggressive customers, but those brain cells had shut down and were refusing to cooperate. Mr. Fairview was selling the angry brother for all he was worth, and her instinct was to fight back—which she couldn't do, in this position.
She took a deep breath. "I'm sure we can work with you to find something within your budget, sir," she said. Oh God, that was weak. "Let's talk about some options—" She reached out for the brochures and books, and realized that she'd left them across the room, sitting on her desk. Of course. She felt her face grow a bit warm at the oversight, but covered it by calmly standing and walking to retrieve them, talking as she walked. "I'm sure you'll find the Paradise plan the one that fits your needs, sir, it's a good combination of quality and price. We can also work with you on floral choices, which can save you a great deal of money." She held out the brochure to him as she returned to her seat.
He didn't take it.
Fairview let her dangle and suffer for a moment, then suddenly sat back and relaxed, arms spread out across the top of the sofa. "Good," he said, and nodded with a warm smile. "Very good. You made me feel welcome, established trust, competence, and a human connection; you seated me where you wanted me, and offered me refreshment. You didn't let me throw you off when I showed you sarcasm and anger. That's always the worst part, I think."
"Did I forget anything?"
"Tissues," he said. "Always keep the tissues here, next to the sofa, where they're easy to reach. Make sure the trash can is visible, but discreet, so they know where to dispose of them. And, of course you've already realized how important it is to keep sales materials at hand, but don't make it obvious; this isn't a furniture store. If you can't do the math in your head, keep a calculator with them so you can quickly update your figures; they'll always want to make changes to standard packages, and that will require re-pricing."
She nodded. "Anything else?"
"Upsell, my dear. Always upsell. Higher priced options may not be within their budget, but they're certainly factored into mine." Mr. Fairview rose and offered her his hand. "I'll introduce you to Lucy when she comes in, and of course you will have to meet Freddy downstairs, but later. For now, I think you're ready for your first intake session. I'll be sitting in, so don't worry; if you go off script, I'll bring you back."
She wasn't fooled by that; he wasn't there to help, he was there to give her a job evaluation. Fairview had a reputation of being strict, a stickler for regulations, and for making the best profits in the industry. He also had a reputation for going through funeral directors like bags of dinner mints.
She took a deep breath, smiled, and stood as Mr. Fairview went to get her first real customers.
Upsell. You can do this!
The first one wasn't too bad; it was a middle-aged woman making arrangements for her father, and she seemed crisp and businesslike about it, or so Bryn thought, until she realized that there was a glaze of shock and misery over the woman's apparently clear eyes. Still, she didn't cry, didn't argue, bargained reasonably, and walked away with a relatively modest coffin, middle-of-the-road funeral package, and a slightly better than average floral package, as well as the higher-priced memorial notice in the newspaper and online.
Mr. Fairview sat off to the side, saying nothing of any real substance, looking solid and helpful. After it was over, he saw the woman to the door and walked her out; Bryn watched from the window as he escorted her out to her car, head bent down as if he was listening. Halfway there, in the lovely little garden grotto with its beautiful angel statue, the woman just… collapsed, as if she'd been hit in the solar plexus. Mr. Fairview didn't seem surprised. He eased her down to a bench and sat beside her. Bryn watched, fascinated by the silent drama of it. His body language told the whole story—warm, kind, understanding. After a few moments, the woman managed to stand up and walk to her car, and Mr. Fairview came back inside.
"Wow," Bryn sighed; she was half admiring, half resentful. She hadn't read the woman as being ready to drop, but obviously Mr. Fairview had much more experience at this than she did. She had a lot to learn.
And to think she'd come in hoping to impress him.
By the time he arrived back in her office, she'd already gotten a good start on the paperwork and opened up the new folder with the deceased's name on it. Everything was paper here, still; she thought maybe she could teach them a thing or two about automating it. Maybe if they all had tablet PCs they could do all this at the initial meeting… so much simpler to avoid all this laborious writing after the fact… show the pictures of the caskets and floral packages right there, zoom to show the detail…
Mr. Fairview came back inside and took the chair across from her. Bryn looked up, brows raised. She wanted to ask, but she was humiliatingly afraid what he was going to say.
"Relax," he said, and she although she would have sworn she really wasn't thatnervous, she felt some hidden tension deep in her stomach slowly release. Wow. That felt good. "You did well enough, Bryn. Not a perfect job, of course, but solid. If you continue to sell that well, you'll have a bright future in the business. Do you know what you missed?"
"Well, obviously, she was ready to collapse," Bryn said, and bit her lip. "I didn't see it. You did."
"I've had considerably more experience at reading the recently bereaved. Don't blame yourself." He smiled at her, and the striking gray of his eyes reminded her suddenly less of silver than of dead ashes. It was just a flicker, and then it was gone. Probably her imag¬ination running away with her. Again. Her imagination had always been a problem for her, which was partly why she'd stubbornly decided on a job in the death business… because imaginative people didn't usually choose working with corpses and grief. Bodies didn't scare her, no indeed, but she couldn't help but imagine the pain that had brought them to this last, painless end. Unlike most funeral directors, she'd not only seen death, she'd seen dying in many forms—quick, slow, painful, painless. It was the wrenching emotional process of that she wanted to avoid.
The dead didn't feel.
"Thank you for taking care of her," Bryn said. "She seemed—kind."
"Did she?" There was something odd in his look, as if Bryn was speaking a foreign language all of a sudden. "Well, I'm sure we'll all have time to get to know her better over the next few days and see if your assessment is correct. She'll be back for the detail arrangements. I assume you're all right with handling those."
"Oh, yes sir."
"That would include deciding on music, speakers, choosing the display room, liaising with her chosen minister… the family is Lutheran, I believe… as well as things like funeral dress and makeup."
There were a dreadful lot of details about being dead, Bryn thought. She'd never had to arrange a funeral herself on the buyer's end, but it seemed almost as complicated as buying a house, and just as prone to larceny. Right, note to self, she thought. Don't ever care enough for anybody to have to do this for them. Oh, and don't die. Two very silly thoughts, but they made her feel better.
Mr. Fairview seemed satisfied, because he checked his expensive Rolex watch and said, "Ah, I see it's time for lunch. Plans, Bryn?"
"I—no sir." She'd brought her lunch. PB&J, just as she'd had all through her high school and college. After MREs, having a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich seemed like heaven in her mouth. Her tastes were pretty simple, but she didn't really want Mr. Fairview to think that; he seemed more the filet mignon type of guy. She bet he drank Perrier water, too.
"Well, then, you must join me to celebrate your first day. Do you like French food?"
She'd no idea, so of course she nodded, smiling, and tried not to seem as out of her element as she felt. She was glad now she'd gone with the nicer suit.Another note to self: buy way more business clothes. She hadn't thought about it back at her apartment, but now that she was here, she could see that wearing the same two suits five days a week was bound to get old—not just for her, but for her coworkers, who'd think she was a charity case. That was something that hadn't really occurred to her; she was used to having uniforms for work, same thing, different day—all crisply laundered and starched, but nothing individual.
Her credit card would stand another couple of purchases… well, barely; that last trip to Crate & Barrel hadn't been strictly necessary. When was payday for this job? Oh yeah, not for at least two more weeks. Damn. She hoped the bill wouldn't come due in the meantime. Awkward.
"Let me get my purse," she said. She retrieved it from the desk drawer—a cheap leatherette thing, but as nice as she could afford. She hoped he wouldn't look too closely, or judge too harshly. He seemed very well tailored, the kind of man who paid attention to designer labels and the little details. She'd never really been like that. If her shoes were cheap and made in China, well, so what, who cared… but she could already see that her attitude was going to have to change about such things. Permanently. She thought she'd left all that spit-and-polish crap behind her, but she should have known; once in the Army, always in the Army. This was just an army that wore business suits, and her new CO was almost certainly going to turn out to be a total pain in the ass.
They nearly always did.
Getting out of the funeral home was a shock, because Bryn still hadn't gotten used to the beauty of being home. Well, not home home—her family lived in the not-very-scenic town of Clovis, New Mexico—but being back in the States had given her a new appreciation of how lovely it could be.
Especially southern California. It was a land of contrasts—the cool blue of the Pacific rolling into the distance, shrouded with a cloak of mist at the horizon, and the pale desert hills studded with cacti and patches of scrub trees. Stark and lovely.
Bryn couldn't believe she was living here. Couldn't believe it was her home now. It still seemed like some kind of dream; any second now, she'd wake up sweating in her uncomfortable bunk and start another day of IED Russian roulette.
No, it's real, she told herself. This is real. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath of sweet, clean air—dry, warm, but not the oppressive stinging heat of Iraq.
"Bryn?" Mr. Fairview was standing at his Town Car, holding open the passenger door.
"Sorry, sir," she said. "Just enjoying the view. It's beautiful."
Fairview smiled a little, and to her eyes, it looked cynical. "It's expensive," he said. "When my great-great-grandfather built this place, I'm sure he did it for the cheap land; today, the taxes alone are ruinous." She shot him a startled glance. "Oh, not that we're hurting for money, Bryn. One thing about the dead: they just never stop coming."
That was one of the more unsettling—and yet weirdly comforting—things Bryn had ever heard.
The drive down the winding road to the restaurant in La Jolla took only ten minutes, but it seemed longer simply because of the silence in the car. Fairview, Bryn discovered, was not prone to chat. That was fine; she was used to silence—loved it, in fact. Her family life had been full of noise and chaos, and most of her college memories were of loud hall parties and stereo wars, not studying. The army, though, had introduced her to a whole new scale of what it meant to be noisy.
She'd learned to sleep through anything, when she had the chance to sleep; she'd also learned to relish the calm, cool peace of silence.
It settled between her and Fairview like the fog on the ocean.
"Here we are," he finally said, and turned the car onto La Jolla's main drag, lined with colorful shops, restaurants, and high-priced hotels. It was beautiful, in a way that most other shopping districts couldn't quite pull off. Maybe it was the sea view, since the hill sloped right down to the rocks and the gently rolling waves. Fairview expertly negotiated the narrow parking space with the big car and shut the engine off.
As he reached for the handle of his door, Bryn said, "Sir, can I ask a question?"
He glanced over at her, surprised. "Of course."
"You have relatively few employees, sir. I mean, there are only four of us that I'm aware of; is that right? The receptionist, you, me, and—"
"Freddy," he said. "Our downstairs man. Yes."
"That's a very small crew for even a small mortuary. I'm a little concerned about our ability to cover—"
"Don't you worry; we'll do fine," he said. "We used to employ a half dozen people in your position alone, but the fact is, even though people keep dying, our business has fallen off some. More people choosing cheaper corporate-run funeral homes; you know how it is. But that doesn't mean we don't have work. Some days it'll be hectic, but I'm sure you can handle it. I outsource body pickups. That's half of the work right there."
He walked her to the door, opened it gallantly, and the maître d' showed them to a table. It was all very fancy, to Bryn's eyes: real tablecloths, crystal, fine silverware, and china plates. The waitress wore nicer shoes than she had on.
Once served, Bryn stared doubtfully down at a plate full of what looked like weeds drenched in sauce, and picked around with her fork. She decided the green stuff looked safe enough, and tried it. Like lettuce, but with spice. Not too bad. Mom would have called it yard salad, she thought, and almost choked on a suppressed laugh. Ain't we grand now?
"How's your appetizer, Bryn?" Mr. Fairview asked. He stirred a cup of coffee, making it look like the most elegant thing in the world, with carefully ordered swirls of his spoon in the small china cup, never once making any uncouth noise about it.
She swallowed and managed a smile. "Very good, sir. Thank you." She'd let him order for her, and if the salad was this weird, she had no idea what she was in for with the main course—but she'd eaten worse overseas; that much was certain. It was part of why her tastes remained so damn simple.
"I have to admit, you're the first woman I've ever hired who served in the military," he said, and nodded to the hovering, perfectly dressed waiter who waited to refill their water glasses. The whole restaurant had that hushed, whispering elegance to it that made Bryn feel every thread of her not-designer clothes and Payless shoes. There were ladies in here wearing jewelry that cost more than her annual salary. "I'm very interested to hear about your experience. You served in Iraq, I understand?"
Baghdad seemed like it wasn't in the same universe as this place, and Bryn felt a creeping sense of unreality in even tackling the topic. "I'm afraid it's not very interesting," she said, hoping he'd take the hint. She quickly took another bite of the salad. Not so bad. She could get used to it. You could get used to anything, in time.
"On the contrary, I find it fascinating that someone like you would choose to sign up during a time of war," Mr. Fairview said. "That tells me quite a bit about your character, you know."
Not so much about her character as her upbringing, Bryn imagined, but she didn't see any need to tell him about growing up poor in a family with two parents on minimum wage and six brothers and sisters, and doing it in a semirural town where aspiring to go to an Ivy League college was looked on as suspiciously elitist. Joining the military was a good, proper thing to do—even for a girl, these days—and if it paid off those expensive college bills, well, that was all right. Her brother Tate had followed in her footsteps, right into the uniform. He was a smart kid, the only smart one in the family, really. She had hopes for him.
She'd taken too long to answer, she realized, and covered it with a smile that felt shy. "You flatter me, Mr. Fairview," she said. "The army seemed like the best option to help me pay off my student loans. It trained me, showed me the world, and gave me a good start for the rest of my life." That sounded straight out of the recruiting brochures, and it said nothing at all about the sheer hell she'd gone through—the merciless and constant hazing, the blatant discrimination, the harsh conditions and constant fear of her surroundings and even of her comrades. She'd learned a lot, all right.
Mostly, she'd learned she never wanted to go to war again, and to avoid those who did want to.
And to keep her mouth shut about all of it.
"You're a very private person, aren't you, Bryn?" her boss asked, and she got the laser examination from those weirdly cold gray eyes again. "Not that I mind that. I like to keep things professional at the office, of course. But one more question: working with the dead and the bereaved doesn't bother you? Because I find that a number of recent entrants to the funeral home profession aren't emotionally suited to the requirements."
It seemed a weird time to be asking the question; after all, he'd already hired her. But she remembered that Fairview was known—notorious, in fact—for going through funeral directors quickly. She had the feeling that every conversation, every seemingly innocent moment, was another evaluation.
Yeah, that was relaxing. She tried to breathe and eat her salad without letting him see her discomfort.
"I don't mind the dead," she said, after she'd swallowed her bite of who knew what kind of weeds. "Bodies are just shells built of muscle and bone. They smell, and they're messy—alive or dead. But there's nothing frightening about a corpse once you get over the idea that they're…" She couldn't think how to put it, and then it clarified in her mind. "Once you get over the fact that you're just like them. And will be them, in the end."
"Ah," he said. She'd surprised him, apparently, or at least that was how she interpreted the quick up-and-down motion of his carefully groomed eyebrows.
She looked down at her salad and continued, more quietly. "We shouldn't ever forget that, out of respect."
"No," he agreed, in the same tone. "No, we shouldn't."
The waiter arrived and whisked away her uneaten salad, and delivered the main course. To her relief, it was some kind of chicken in sauce. Delicious. She didn't miss her PB and J at all, and when Mr. Fairview poured her a glass of wine, she let herself drink it and enjoy the rest of the meal.
She almost regretted going back to work, in fact.
I could get used to this, she thought.
Especially if she didn't have to pay the crazy expensive bill.
Excerpted from "Working Stiff"
Copyright © 2011 Rachel Caine.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Trying to branch out onto other things is always easier when there is sample, which there is for this...27 pages, which is a nice sample to determine if this book might be an option for purchase, except 24 of those pages are reviews, acknowledgements, or simply don't exist....THREE pages (!) out of 27 that doesn't even scratch the surface of the opening scene. What kind of sample is THAT?!
Bryn Davis learned two things about being in the army in Iraq for four years; first the military was not a career for her and second she handled corpses without her stomach betraying her. After leaving the service, she became a Funeral Director at the Fairview Mortuary. Her new "commander" Lincoln Fairview IV is a bit creepy but embalming a cadaver is imprinted in his DNA. When she finds the corpse of a woman whose late father was the client, Bryn feels a bit unnerved. However, it is when she finds her boss and his prime henchman Freddy selling a unique pharmaceutical, she becomes more than unnerved; Freddy kills her. Investigator Patrick McCallister revives her with a special top secret drug. He hopes Bryn has insight into the source of the leak of the drug that keeps the dead alive for twenty-four hours at a time. To obtain future doses of Returné; Bryn acquiesces to work for McCallister. The opening of Rachel Caine's newest urban fantasy series is a terrific chemical Zombie thriller as the heroine learns what it means to truly be a Working Stiff with ultimate undying loyalty to one's firm. Establishing rather quickly the realm of the Revivalist, fans will relish Bryn's adventures in death and life as she and McCallister investigate the selling and misuse of a pirated drug returns the dead benefactor into a slave zombie. Harriet Klausner
What an interesting story. I enjoyed it
I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the series. It provides a great twist to the 'zombie' concept. More importantly, I could relate to Bryns struggle to cope what has happened to her. Loved the blooming relationship between Bryn and Pat (even if its borderline necrophelia). Also provided plenty of mystery and action sequences. Overall, a well rounded written book that has a little bit of everything for several genre of readers
I received an uncorrected proof for this book at one of the author's promotional signings. I love it! It's a really good book and I have no idea where it's going which I really like... It'll definately keep you guessing and is on par with Morganville! Bryn is exarmy so you know she's already pretty tough... I thought that's a neat twist to her. Read it, it's fantastic!
I was really looking forward to this book. I¿d read quite a few pre-release reviews that were very positive and the description is totally up my alley. On release day, I rushed out and picked up a copy. That was a mistake because I hated this book.I try to always find something positive about a book I disliked and generally it is not that hard, but I have to say that it is a struggle for me to come up with anything positive about this book. The best I can do is say that the premise of a drug company creating a drug that resurrects people is entertaining and fairly original. But that¿s all I¿ve got.So, what didn¿t I like? Bryn, for starters. She was just not a likeable character. She was very rigid and uninteresting. She wasn¿t a particularly strong character. She seemed to be falling to pieces every few pages, and I just don¿t enjoy that. Along with Bryn, the supporting characters were not great. They were flat and very stereotypical.The plot was convoluted. It¿s paranormal; it¿s corporate espionage; it¿s zombies; it¿s organized crime¿it¿s crap is what it is. It was a hodgepodge of ridiculousness. And the ridiculous plot just drug on and on and on.I have a general rule that I do not judge an entire series by the first book in that series. If I did that, I wouldn¿t be reading some of my absolute favorite series today. However, I am going to break that rule for this book. It was so bad and I see no redeeming qualities in this book that would warrant me spending my time on it.If you feel compelled to read this book, get it from the library. I would strong advise just skipping it altogether.
So far I have largely avoided the trend for all things zombie and perhaps that's why I overlooked the imminent release of Working Stiff, the first in a brand new series named Revivalist by Rachel Caine. I was a huge fan of her Weather Warden series so when I ran across the description of this novel I put aside my natural aversion to shambling mindless brain eaters and added it to my TBR. I figured that Caine might be the author to change my mind and convince me zombies had a place on my reading list.Bryn is ex military and starting her civilian life as a funeral director. I like what we learn about her, she is smart, considered and strong but Bryn's first day does not go well. A teenage girl mourning her father commits suicide in the bathroom, the morgue attendant attempts to molest her, a gunman is roaming the halls and then she is murdered by her boss when she stumbles upon his nasty secret, an illicit trade in a drug called Returne that reanimates a deceased person and can keep them alive indefinitely as long as they continue to inject it. Hoping that Bryn can answer some questions, Patrick McCallister authorises the use of Returne to revive her and Bryn discovers she is now a pawn in the corrupt machinery of Pharmadene, the developer of the drug.The actual idea of this drug is almost too horrifying to contemplate, and Caine instigates some twists that make it a particularly terrifying prospect. Unless Bryn receives her daily dose, for example, her body will begin to deteriorate while her mind will remain intact. Caine's description of the process isn't too graphic but my imagination shudders at the idea of slipping skin and leaking fluids. Really though, it's the emotional implications of Bryn's new status which gives her character an edge. Caine is quite brutal in exposing the issues Bryn now has to struggle with including the loss of her identity and ability to make life choices. Bryn is constantly under pressure, and the result is a raw, gritty intensity that provides depth to her character.McCallister is the rich, mysterious, Alpha hero with all the appeal that implies but the developing romance is slightly awkward, after all Bryn is technically dead and McCallister is an ordinary human. If you can get past the connotation of necrophilia, then the partnership is actually fairly standard for the genre. Patrick is a little too dominant for my tastes but Caine does hint at emotional depths that I am sure will be revealed as the series progresses.To be honest, zombies still creep me out but Rachel Caine has convinced me that Working Stiff is the start of an entertaining and exciting new series. This is a fast paced, action packed story with a strong premise and interesting characters and I am sure its going to quickly find a fan base amongst urban fantasy readers looking for something a little different. I'm looking forward to the next one already.
I was caught off guard by how much different this book felt than the other works I've read by Rachel Caine. It is much bleaker, darker, etc. Many other fantasy and urban fantasy novels deal with the theme of death but it just feels so realistic as presented here in "Working Stiff". The jist of the story: Bryn Davis is a new employee at a funeral home. Suddenly she is wrapped up in all kinds of craziness which leads to her death. Soon she re-awakens from her deceased state to find out she has been injected with Returne, a drug that literally brings a corpse back from the dead. The trick is that she needs a shot each and everyday or bad things start to happen to her body. There is an underground market for Returne where people will spend unlimited amounts of money to keep their loved ones alive. There is also some nefarious evildoings going on within the company that produces Returne. Bryn will be kept on the drug as long as she continues to be useful to the makers or Returne. Along the way Bryne meets a large cast of characters who want to help or hurt her. Many of these characters provide the best parts of this story. One of Ms. Caine's best writing skills is her ability to create characters that feel real...they have realistic reactions and motivations. This book also contains several gory and farily graphic scenes which aren't always the easiest to handle so be forwarned before starting this book. I personally really enjoyed "Working Stiff". I don't think it ever had a dull lag and I read the book over just a couple of sittings. I also think that future installments may not be quite as bleak as this one. Death is a dark subject and for this particular tale to be told I prefer it handled this way than to be made light of. I am glad I read this book and I plan to read any future installments but I understand where others aren't as impressed with it. It truly is a huge departure for the author.
Whoa. What a super-depressing story. If you thought vampire-angst was bad, wait till you read this new series from Rachel Caine. This girl needs some happy, stat!
A stiff read indeed!
I'm a big fan of Rachel Caine, especially in her beginning books. I loved the Weather Warden series at the beginning and same thing with Morganville Vamps, after a while I stopped loving them as much but still thought they were great reads and enjoyable. So when I found out she had a new series coming out I was super excited. I love the beginnings (lets face it when a series that you like ends you kind of dread reading that last chapter). As stated in the previous book review, I am trying to open myself up more to genre as a whole including the zombie/horror subgenre. I bought this book after I already started Strange Angels, and figured this would be the perfect follow up, if anyone could make me enjoy a book about zombies, it would be Rachel Caine. The thing I love about paranormal books is that the author really gets to make the rules. I can't tell you how many times I have picked up a book about vampires and found that they all kind of have the same general idea but the differences in one authors version of a vampire to another is sometimes drastic. So as far as zombies go, I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I love Caine's interpretation of it. Bryn being a zombie never really grossed me out the way zombies in general do, and she didn't gross me out because Caine didn't make her some creepy crawly thing that goes bump in the night. Instead Bryn is still the same person she always was, just with a daily injection to maintain her in "living" status, along with a couple other surprises about her condition that go along with the plot. Even so, Bryn is just a person, her thoughts and feelings are the same as they were before she was murdered and brought back to life.Another thing I like about the book is it "big bad" if you will is totally believable especially this day in age. There is a pharmaceutical company out to cure cancer and instead "cures" death (as long as you get your daily injection that is). While companies like these are responsible for most if not all of the drug advancements out there, it's easy to see them as the bad guy because let's face it they are all about the profit margin. And the company in Caine's book takes that concept to the extreme, image what a company could do or control with a drug like this and you have a slight idea of how this book goes. In the end the bad guys in any book or story are all about getting power, and this book is no different. What makes this interesting for me though is that I can believe a company like this could be a bad guy in the world I live in. In most paranormal fantasy books I can't imagine a rogue werewolf faction showing up in my community and wrecking havoc. Making the bad guy believable in the real world was great and intriguing.As for the characters for the most part I liked them, particularly the main characters. Bryn is trying to find her way in a situation that can only be described as F-ed up, and suddenly she has to handlers if you will to keep her together, alive, and on the right path. Joe is much more likable right from the start, he's as open as her can be and friendly, he puts Bryn at ease which in turn allowed me to get to know Bryn better as I was reading. Patrick on the other hand is more stand offish, there is clearly more going on with him than meets the eye, and while some insight is given as the book progresses, I have a feeling that a lot more will be revealed as the series goes on. Thankfully the book isn't all serious, or completely go go go, in fact there were some amusing moments in there where the characters felt more real and in a way became more dynamic because of that. This was particularly true in one scene with Patrick and his "butler", Liam, joking about how he was Alfred, and how Liam would be willing to search the lower levels to see if there was a Batcave somewhere.In the end I was very pleased with this book. The novel didn't end on some huge unsatisfying cliff hanger, but left it open enough for the reader to have an idea of
I read the whols series and enjoyed it very much.
MY INITIAL THOUGHTS Approaching this book I'd say I had fairly high expectations, as it is written by Rachel Caine, and having read a lot of the Morganville Vampire books and really loved them. Though I think The Revivalist Series is more adult aimed. MY REVIEW I exchanged a book I had read on the Goodreads UK Swap Group for this book. this book does have a few different covers but for the purpose of this review I will talk about the one I have pictured above. I think the female on the cover looks strong and perhaps edging toward being called a kick butt female character, so upon reading the book I think its safe to say that that is Bryn Davis. The candles in the background give the cover a haunting look. I think the title,author name and series name fonts fit the funereal feel of the cover and the book. Again my pet hate is the quote from another author. Even though I love Charlaine Harris I'd prefer her quote to be on the back cover or the inside of the book somewhere. There's no byline, which I think does add to the appeal of a book. So would the cover alone make me pick this book up from a book store shelf? Yes I think it would, though I wouldn't be grabbing this one first, I would notice it and pick it up to learn more. So I like the totally different plot of this book. Bryn has just come out of the military, and applied for a job at the Fairview Funeral Home. Bryn quickly learns that there is something not quite right going on at the funeral home and upon working late finds herself bizarrely caught up in the middle of everything with two men named Joe Fideli and Patrick McCallister who are some type of whistleblower/assassin type people who are trying to find out who is supplying the "drugs" to Fairview. The "Drug" in question is very special, as it brings you back from the dead. As McCallister and Fideli are creeping about, Fast Freddy and Mr Fairview kill Bryn as she has witnessed an altercation between them and a client who is trying to obtain more of the drug. So Bryn is dead, then she is in turn given the drug which is aptly called Returné. Which all sounds great until you realise to stay "undead and prevent decomposing" a shot of Returné has to be given daily. The company that makes Returné is called Pharmadene Pharmaceuticals and the cold hearted woman at the top of the company is ironically called Ms Harte, only she has no "heart" at all. Ms Harte is a cold calculated hard nosed business woman. She controls the supply of Returné she can literally cut off Bryn's lifeline. There's lots of industrial espionage, under cover operations, drama, danger, black market drug deals and death in this action packed book. There's crazy scientist Manny who seems to want to help, or does he? The plot at times seems quite complicated, but everything does fall into place as you are reading the book. I don't wish to giveaway any more than absolutely necessary. We also go through a range of emotions with Bryn as she has to come to terms with being a Returné user/one of the walking dead. she will never have a family of her own, who would want to even marry her? I mean how could she explain the daily shots of Returné to start with? At times Bryn is naturally depressed, I mean normally death is the end of all your problems not just the very beginning of them. I enjoyed the medium to fast pace of the book, there's always something happening and plenty of uncertainty, and opportunity to muse as to how work out. I found the characters of Joe, Patrick and of course Bryn likeable. You really empathise with Bryn and the predicament she finds herself in. At one point in the book you wonder if Bryn is going to fall for Joe Fideli but Joe is happily married with children so the love interest ends up being Patrick. Patrick however tries to remain emotionally detached from Bryn, but can he keep that up, how would he feel if her supply of Returné was cut off? Could he live with himself if Bryn had to be left to decompose? The book ends in such a way that it sets this scene for a potentially impressive series. So did I enjoy the book? Yes, it was a refreshing variation on my usual type of read. Would I recommend the book? Yes but I'd say it is more aimed at older teen/adults. Would I read a BK#2? Yes I think BK#2 will be going on my wishlist to read. Would I read other books by Rachel Caine? I have read the Morganville Vampire Series by Rachel Caine so I guess the answer is yes.
Unique plot. Quick read and a sequel to boot!
I wasn't sure about this book at first, but found I was having a hard time putting it down. This book kept my attention. Can't wait o start the next book!
It's not bad. I've read all the Morganville books and quite frankly I wondered if Ms. Caine could do anything without "cute" speak. She does, and pretty well, too. It's ok, it's readable, but it's not great.
I have really high hopes for this series. The first book was good, but it took a little longer to gain the necessary momentum than previous first books by Rachel Caine. Overall it was good at introducing all the characters and high arcing storyline. It was good at provoking emotions either good or bad about the heroes, heroines and villains. The end of the first book definitely propelled me to read the second which I plan to start today, but I took a star off simply because of the time it took to latch on to the story, characters and want to keep reading.
Love it but where is book #2??? I would love to keep reading them!! Keep them coming haha (: