"There were so many layers of reality to the world. Nothing stopped for death; nothing stopped for grief or horror or tragedy."
Working Stiff is the first in Rachel Caine's new Revivalist series. Prior to this, I had only been exposed to Caine's writing through the first in her Weather Wardens series, which I had mixed feelings about. After reading Working Stiff I'm ready to dive into anything she's written! I really really liked this book! I really don't know how to classify it though. I think that may have been the problem for those who didn't love it - it doesn't really fit into urban fantasy even though that's what it's commonly classified as. There are no vampires, shifters, fae, dragons, werewolves, etc. Wait, you say, there are zombies!
Well, yes and no.
Working Stiff introduces us to Bryn Davis, a former military woman who spent four years in Iraq but is not a badass by any means. She is just a regular person like you or me. She has taken a job as the funeral director at Fairview Mortuary due to similar experience during her time in Iraq. Her first day sucks. There's just no other way to put it. And after a long and hellish day Bryn stumbles upon a serious scandal involving her new boss and the fact that he is profiting from an experimental drug that brings dead people back to life.
So, of course, she is promptly murdered and brought back to life using said drug.
Here is where you are thinking "Zombie alert!" but no, not really. First of all, the "zombies" are created using science, not magic. Secondly, the drug just brings the person's body back, it doesn't made them into a mindless drone or give them a wild craving for brains. The drug plunges nanites into the person's bloodstream to repair the damage of death and the person must get a fresh shot of these nanites every day in order to sustain life. So, really, this book is a little more like a sci-fi read than an urban fantasy.
Whatever the heck it is, its damn good! The glue that holds this whole story together is Bryn. Caine writes Bryn in such a way that you can really relate to her. She's normal. She knows how to shoot a gun well since she was in the military, and she has some minor fighting skills. But other than that she is no kick-ass heroine. Don't get me wrong, I love my ass kickers! But I equally loved Bryn for all her normalcy. And she's not the whining wimp in the corner either. She is a nice balance just like most people would be in Bryn's 'situation' (you know, being practically dead and having to rely on a daily shot to keep from rotting away and and all).
Another favorite about this story for me were McCallister and Joe. They are the two Pharmadene security employees tagged with tracking down the rogue who is selling the drug and was Bryn's boss's supplier. McCallister is short and to the point and his exterior melts away very slowly. I liked that his affection for Bryn (and vice versa) took time and they didn't jump into the sack in chapter two. In fact, don't count on there being much romance in this book. I also really loved family man Joe and his affection for Bryn, even though its a very different affection than that of McCallister. Joe had one of my favorite lines in the book, because it pegged the situation just right:
“Bryn, my job is to make sure you don’t do anything stupid. So yeah. I followed you. When you leave your house in the middle-class version of ninja clothes, I pay attention. You didn’t look like you were running out for milk and kibble.”
Other side characters I adore include Liam the proper estate administer and Mr. French the fabulous guard dog!
Oh, and there is definitely some action here. It's not exactly nonstop, but it's there and its quality over quantity for sure.
I give this book five strong stars and I CANNOT wait for number two in the series. The story evolved and grew as the plot went on and the ending left me wanting more! Congrats to Caine for a fantastic first in a new series and another brand new fan!