Dead Witch Walking
Published 2004 416 pages
Rachel Morgan is a witch and an Inderland Security (IS) runner. It is her job to investigate and bring to justice black magic witches, rogue werewolves, and vampires in breach of the law. Lately though the only jobs her boss will send her on are prank spells and chasing trolls out from under bridges and even these simple jobs seem to keep going wrong for her. Rachel decides she can do better investigative work than this if she is self employed and quits her job. Rachel’s work colleague Ivy, a living vampire, decides to quit too and they both leave together to start their own agency.
Unfortunately no one ever leaves the IS unless they can buy back their contract. Ivy can afford to buy her own contract but Rachel isn’t so lucky. Her boss puts a death contract out on her and Rachel has to fight for her life as were, witch and fairy assassins try to collect the bounty on her head.
The IS has been trying to arrest Trent Kalamack a city councilor and successful businessman for years but have never managed to find the evidence to make the charges stick. Rachel has a tip off about Trent’s illegal activities and knows that if she can give the IS Trent they will call off her death contract. Dodging assassins is easier than catching Trent. Ruthless and inhuman, Trent has no intention of facing trial for his crimes and Rachel’s troubles are just beginning….
I really liked this book. Kim Harrison has invented a supernatural world set in an alternative Cincinnati. Her world splits from our world in the 1950’s after the discovery of DNA leads to humans experimenting with genetic engineering to the exclusion of everything else. In her world humans nearly wiped themselves out of existence after developing a genetically engineered virus that got out of control and spread through tomatoes (okay so that is a little odd but otherwise the story works well.) The only people not affected by the virus were the non humans (weres, vampires, witches and warlocks) who kept civilization running while the virus ran its course and then declared their existence to the humans that were left. Since that time humans and non humans, called Inderlanders, have lived in a wary truce with each other.
The Inderland Security bureau was set up by Inderlanders to police the activities of other Inderlanders. This is where Rachel, the main character of the story works, at the start of the book.
The narrative is told in first person by Rachel, who is a kind of supernatural Stephanie Plum. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series (no vampires there!) Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter from New Jersey who always solves the mystery in the story and gets her man – just. Stephanie lurches from disaster to disaster but with the help of her family and friends always comes up smelling of roses. In many ways Rachel is similar. She has a boss who hates her and career that goes to new lows even when she thinks it can’t get worse (I think we’ve all been there!) She has a habit of accidentally cocking up simple things but with Rachel there is more scope for things to go wrong because she is a witch. She also has a great set of friends who help her out of tight spots.
One of the most interesting characters in the book is Rachel’s business partner and room mate Ivy. Ivy is a living vampire. In Kim Harrison’s world there are three types of vampire, living vampires who are born with the vampire virus, live lives where they can walk in the sun and worship at church before inevitably becoming undead vampires when they die. Low blood vampires who are humans that have been turned into living vampires, they need to be finally turned into undead vampires when they die by another vampire and undead vampires who are more like the traditional interpretation of a vampire, unable to bear sunlight, afraid of crosses, no conscience and a potential for evil behaviour.
Ivy and Rachel’s relationship is intriguing. They are business partners and also live together. Ivy is desperate for a friend but has to fight her vampire instincts and blood lust whilst living around Rachel. Rachel needs Ivy but doesn’t want to end up as a vampire play thing. There is plenty of scope for the relationship to develop in later books.
The book is very much based in magic and has a general supernatural theme but there is enough vampire action to keep even the most die hard vampire fan entertained. I recommend this book as an entertaining supernatural detective action book perfect for anyone who likes strong female lead characters and magic.
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