Author: Rachel Caine
Published: August 2nd, 2011 by Penguin
Synopsis: Bryn Davis knows working at Fairview Mortuary isn't the most glamorous career choice, but at least it offers stable employment--until she discovers her bosses using a drug that resurrects the clientele as part of an extortion racket. Now, Bryn faces being terminated--literally, and with extreme prejudice.
Wit the help of corporate double-agent Patrick McCallister, Bryn has a chance to take down the bigger problem--pharmaceutical company Pharmadene, which treats death as the ultimate corporate loyalty program. She'd better do it fast, before she becomes a zombie slave--a real working stiff. She'd be better off dead...(From Goodreads.com)
To preface my review I just want to say that Rachel Caine is one of my favorite authors. Her young adult vampire series, The Morganville Vampires, first stole my heart when I was a vamp newbie. Her Weather Warden series starring Jo and David are permanently rooted on my to-re-read shelf and David, with his devotion and copper eyes, will always be my first Book Boyfriend.
Working Stiff, Rachel Caine's newest adult series screams of murder, strength and a second chance at life. I feel that Working Stiff is the start of something sensational and may be some of Ms. Caine's best work yet.
Bryn Davis, the newest employee at Fairview Mortuary, has her life under control; she's finished her required time with the armed forces, she's graduated from college and she's just been hired on as the mortuary's funeral director. Everything seems to be going as planned, except Bryn's life never included her boss extorting money from the dead and when Bryn accidentally stumbles upon the underground operation, she finds more than she ever wanted to know. With Pharmadene, the creator of the drug Returne - a drug that brings the dead back to life - breathing down her neck and forcing her hand, Bryn will have to find the employee leak from Pharmadene's masses or they may terminate her membership to their "loyalty program". And after a rumbling series of events, Bryn is forced to closely examine her life and decide what it really means to her.
Working Stiff is powerful and poignant from chapter one, with a first hand look at the grief stricken, and sometimes cynical, families of the dead to death itself. Bryn is an easy character to relate to and looking through her eyes at the events that occur throughout the book was almost like experiencing them myself. Bryn is an exceptionally strong female lead and there were so many instances when I would have broken down into tears when Bryn was able to wade through the muck and grime and do what she had to while still remaining undoubtedly human at other times, making her character a brilliant mix of flawed emotion.
It didn't take more than three strokes. The saw was very sharp. As the head rolled free, Bryn saw the life desperately continue in those filmed eyes, and then dim...and then, finally, mercifully, depart.
Bryn dropped the saw, staggered, and put her back against the wall...
Her legs had gone numb, but McCallister helped her down the steps, past the line of ants, past the silent living room with its TV still playing, Scotch waiting.
Outside into the clean breeze, and the sun.
Bryn collapsed against him, put her arms around his neck, and wept as if her heart were breaking. "Oh, God," she whispered. "Oh, my god. I had to do it; I had to. I had to."
And Patrick McCallister held on just as fiercely. "I know." he whispered back. "It's all right. It's over."
Working Stiff is a novel that I don't think I can fully express my emotions on. The characters were wonderful, and full of life and love, and flawed to a finely executed degree. But the plot...OH the plot. It was like a cyclone, an action-adventure movie, a homicidal-megalomaniac, a scientist, a masochist and a hopeful zombie all joined together to become the plot of this book. Every unique aspect of the plot brought out different emotions, from me, all in all, creating something akin to a proverbial yo-yo of feelings. One minute my eyes were watering profusely and my heart was breaking and the next my jaw was falling to my knees because I could not BELIEVE "that just happened". In my opinion, this is where Ms. Caine executed W0rking Stiff with astonishing skill because as a reader I relish the high points of a novel when I'm forced to experience the low points. And believe you me, there was no shortage of low points.
The [clear] plastic bag slipped neatly over the man's head, and was cinched in place with a deft twist of the guard's wrist.
She saw it from two angles, like some nightmare...from where she stood, watching the man's panicked eyes widen under the film of the plastic before his breath clouded the bag, and from inside the bag at the same time.... Panic roared up inside her, flattening her defenses. She pressed both hands against the glass, trying desperately to help him, help him, because she knew how it felt; she knew the agonized terror that drove him to suck in all the available air and compress the plastic around his skin.
I don't think I can fully portray the atrocities that happen in this book and what so many of the characters have to suffer through, the greatest of all, Bryn. Death runs rampant through the pages and on occasion lust and love find its way in. The relationship between Patrick McCallister and Bryn is a toughie. It's rough and raw and sometimes its there and sometimes its not. Ms. Caine does everything she can to fully develop our feelings for these two and doesn't let them rush into anything. It leaves us on our toes and melts our hearts every time one of them lets their guard down.
Working Stiff made me feel so alive and appreciate everything I had in a small simplistic way. It was rough and strong and moving and just...I don't know...genius. This novel, to me, was EPIC and if you decide to read any adult fiction this year, you should read this because it is EPIC...'nuff said.