Copy courtesy of the publisher
Bryn Davis is ex-military. From a relatively poor family, she found the military the best way to pay off her college debts. Now she’s left service and has a job at Fairview Mortuary. Perhaps not the ideal job but Bryn isn’t bothered by dead bodies – she’s seen plenty of them during her time serving overseas. So she takes the job upselling funeral packages but her first day doesn’t go exactly to plan. There’s a tragic incident involving a young girl mourning the loss of her father, the creepy mortician downstairs hits on her and doesn’t seem to want to take no for an answer. And then Bryn catches her boss sneaking back after hours accompanied by some rather desperate looking individuals.
Caught where she shouldn’t be, in something she definitely shouldn’t have seen, Bryn faces a permanent termination. Given a second chance of sorts by security agents Joe Fideli and Patrick McCallister, Bryn knows her days are numbered and she’ll be kept around so long as she’s useful. Repackaged as the owner of Fairview, Bryn is charged with the task of getting to the bottom of what was occurring there under its previous owner and how exactly it was happening. With a large corporate company sitting on a goldmine hanging over her head, there’s no chance for Bryn to muck this up.
I’ve never read any Rachel Caine before but I picked up this one at the Penguin BTL event that I went to a couple of months ago at the urging of Danielle from ALPHA Reader who is 3 for 3 in awesome recommendations so far this year! I do have another book by Caine sitting on my TBR pile courtesy of Marg who went to a signing with her done through one of the branches at our local library that I missed due to being away on my honeymoon. After reading Working Stiff, the first in a new series known as the Revivalist series, I am definitely going to read that book.
Because this book was fantastic. I really enjoyed it and to be honest, I wasn’t sure that I would from the blurb on the back of the book. And a huge part of that is Bryn – she’s tough, likable, honest and an all round great new protagonist. I enjoyed her story telling immensely. She’s had an interesting life, but it isn’t a lecture on the armed services, of the war overseas and the atrocities that occur therein. It was a way to pay off her debt and although it’s helped shape her, it doesn’t define her. She wants, no, needs, the job at Fairview and she is terrified she won’t be good enough. After all, Fairview has a rather high employment turnover. When she discovers that her boss is moonlighting as a pusher of a dangerous drug, she finds herself in a pretty dire situation. Only some medical intervention can help her – and it’s definitely got a shelf life.
Now assisting two security agents for a large pharmaceutical company to discover who is selling their drug under the counter, Bryn knows her very life depends on it. Her desperation here is perfectly written – touching and tinged with a horror that is all too easy to imagine and sympathise with. For someone who is ex-military, to give up control of everything, of your very life and even existence, must have been an utterly devastating thing. But Bryn is never portrayed as some kind of emotional sissy or whiny ‘why me’ type. She busts her ass to do what she has to do to keep herself alive.
And then there’s Patrick. Security agent Patrick McCallister who is the reason behind Bryn’s second chance. At first he’s aloof and vaguely threatening, reminding Bryn of her limited shelf life if she doesn’t come up with the goods. But as time goes on, the relationship between them thaws and mellows and they both become aware of each other a little more. Patrick is impressed with the way Bryn handles her situation and the way she feels responsible for people who are in the same position as she is and need help. He makes a promise to her that he will never allow her to suffer and very slowly the ground work is laid for a romance. It’s a slow burn, which is very refreshing given the amount of instalove that exists these days. I know this is urban fantasy rather than paranormal romance but it is nice to see some patience taken with two characters, fleshing out characters and emotions before they dive headlong into a relationship. Patrick and Bryn had some really great interactions and he’s very accepting of what she is right now
“Underneath we’re all that,” McCallister said. “Everybody’s dying Bryn. You’re just maintaining it better than most people – that’s all.”
Working Stiff is an interesting idea, well constructed and written with memorable and likable characters, from Bryn and McCallister to Joe Fideli all the way down. A great introduction to Rachel Caine that has made me very keen for both the next book in this series (due out in around August of this year) and to read some of her other work.
Book #31 of 2012