The world of urban fantasy is full of vampires, werewolves and other supernatural beings, including zombies. But not until I read Working Stiff by New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine did I consider a zombie might not only be the lead character in a story but be one of the most interesting and relatable characters I’ve read.
I’m not sure if Bryn Davis meets the exact classification of zombie but she’s certainly dead and walking around. The difference is that she’s retained her wits and her free will.
The story begins with Bryn having bad first day on the job at a funeral home and things go downhill from there, as she discovers her employers have a drug that resurrects the corpses. However, the drug costs, and the supplier is happy to cut off his junkies if they don’t meet his price. Unfortunately for her, Bryn is soon among those resurrected corpses, trapped between her need for a drug that will keep her alive and a chance to get revenge on those who killed her.
And if she does it wrong, she could turn into a true zombie slave of her murderer.
This book definitely has a horror vibe. I’m a wimp when it comes to truly scary stuff, so I had to put it down a few times because it was so intense. What kept me glued to the story was Bryn, an engaging lead character, a military veteran who took a job at the funeral home because she didn’t mind dead people and it was quiet. Her fear after her resurrection, her worry for her family, and her need to still adhere to some sort of moral code is well-drawn and I was terrified for her while reading.
This is a book I could not put down. The pacing is perfect, moving quickly from Bryn’s initial trouble and putting her into trouble she couldn’t even imagine and has a great action sequence at the end that had me thinking “this would be a great movie,” maybe with Charlize Theron in the lead.
It’s not giving too much away to say that Bryn survives, given that this is a new series and the second book, Two Weeks Notice, is out on August 7th. Bryn has become one of those characters that I want to succeed and win, though I suspect her author will put her through as much trouble in the second book as she did in this first one.
After all, there’s still a mad scientist making a zombie drug on the loose, a family member to rescue or avenge, and a life as an undead corpse to sort out.