Published 2009 314 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Some cases are unusual - even for Jill Kismet.
When her police contact asks her to look into a "suicide", she suddenly finds herself in a labyrinth of deception, drugs, murder - and all-too-human corruption. The cops are her allies, except for the ones who want her dead. The hellbreed are her targets, except for the ones who might know what's going on. Her city is in danger, time is running out, and each lead only draws her deeper.
How far will a hunter go when her city - and her friends - are on the line?
Redemption Alley is the third book in Lilith Saintcrow’s Jill Kismet urban fantasy series. Three books into the series new readers would do best to introduce themselves to the world of Jill Kismet with Night Shift or Hunter’s Prayer rather than starting here.
The Jill Kismet books are darker and generally more violent than her earlier Dante Valentine series. Jill’s world is grim and her mission to protect her city from the creatures of the Nightside seems ultimately hopeless but I loved the first two books in this series, particularly Hunter’s Prayer. Yet for some reason I just couldn’t extend the love to Redemption Alley.
Jill has always been a strong urban fantasy female protagonist, full of sharp edges and true grit, but the tentative feelings of likeability that I previously felt towards Jill’s character just evaporated in this book. She seems to have tipped the balance from powerful female protagonist to something that is like a caricature of an urban fantasy heroine. Her actions and reactions to plot developments seeming almost cartoon-like in places. Worse, without the influence of her werewolf boyfriend in this story her inner voice turned whiny and self-pitying in places which is greatly at odds with her gung-ho, “I’m so strong I can get shot in the heart and it doesn’t slow me down” attitude towards everything else.
Okay, so maybe Redemption Alley is plot driven rather than character driven but the plot can’t carry the story all by itself. In this book Jill has to sort out a cop conspiracy which quickly escalates into a cop conspiracy to kill Jill. She also has deal with a Scurf outbreak. I was looking forward to meeting the Scurf, described as a “viral infection responsible for the legends of blood-hungry corpses, vampires, or nosferatu” they sounded dangerous in the best traditions of apocalyptic zombie-outbreak.
However, scant time in the story is dedicated to these potentially exciting monsters and when Jill does encounter a group of humans infected with an off-shoot of the Scurf virus, there is no description of what she finds, because it left her with “memories so terrible the fabric of the brain itself refuses to hold them.” I know that it is a standard horror device to let the reader imagine the most terrible thing that they can, because it’s usually worse than anything the author can devise, but a hint of what she had seen would have given my imagination a starting point. Without any detail to go on, my imagination strictly refused to do the author’s work.
Jill also whinges on about her usual discomfort with the bargain that she made with the head demon in her city (Perry) that gave her the power she uses to fight demons. Why Perry ever thought it was a good idea to give Jill this power when thwarting his plans whenever possible is always on her daily to-do list is a mystery to me. Again, this is an inconsistency with the world of Jill Kismet that you usually don’t notice while the plot is pulling you on a fast-paced trip through the seamy Nightside of Jill’s world - but stop and think for a minute and it doesn’t always make sense.
The strength of Saintcrow’s furiously paced plot-driven stories is that she usually rarely gives you a moment to stop and think about it. Unfortunately for me, Redemption Alley didn’t hold my attention enough to stop me from thinking about the overall likelihood of the actions of the characters - with the ultimate result that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for much of this story.
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