Reviewed by: Amanda
Rating (out of 5 stars): 3.5 stars
It’s pretty widely accepted that zombies are shuffling, shambling creatures that feast on brains and have no capability for higher thought. So calling Bryn Davis a zombie wouldn’t technically be correct.
Bryn’s the new funeral director at Fairview Mortuary. She’s been discharged from the Army and spent the last four years dealing with dead bodies caused by gunshots and IEDs, so working with the dead doesn’t bother her so much. Shortly after she begins working for Lincoln Fairview, though, she stumbles on a black-market drug operation, and Mr. Fairview takes exception to this discovery. Next thing she knows, she’s waking up in a sterile room and being told she’s dead. She’s just been revived, is all, and as long as she continues taking the drug Returné, she’ll stay alive indefinitely, unable to get sick, unable to age.
Having been chastised in the past by zombie purists, I cannot actually call this a zombie novel. Also, thinking of Bryn as a zombie is so not sexy. She’s exactly the same as she was before she was killed: smart, sassy, independent, a little vulnerable and scared of it. She’s attracted to Patrick McCallister, the man charged with keeping an eye on her, and she doesn’t want to be. She has a dog. She has a crappy apartment. She just happens to be dead.
Working Stiff has a definite corporate espionage bent to it. The security measures Pharmadene, the company behind Returné, takes to ensure word of the drug doesn’t leak occasionally border on extreme. Someone inside the company is selling Returné for a massive profit off the books, and it’s Bryn’s job to find him, or her newly revived life will end. McCallister and his contractor, Joe Fideli, run around with guns and regularly get into gunfights. There are listening devices and surveillance and bugs. And torture takes on a whole new meaning when you depend on a drug to keep you from decomposing.
Some of the descriptions are gruesome. There isn’t any way to get around it. Bryn is dead, several of the other peripheral characters are dead, and Bryn and McCallister and Joe often find ways to get themselves beat up or shot at. Think blood and gore, and lots of it.
In the midst of all the intrigue, Bryn manages to fall for McCallister, but this part of the story didn’t feel as full as it could have been. Their chemistry wasn’t a tangible thing, or even subtle-it just didn’t feel there at all. So McCallister’s promises to Bryn didn’t have as much impact as they could have. I almost wish this thread hadn’t been introduced at all, because when it was on the page, it was distracting.
But it was easy to shunt aside the lack of romance because the action was almost nonstop. Once Bryn’s brought back from the dead, she’s only got two weeks to locate the leak within Pharmadene. She’s being threatened by Pharmadene and by a mysterious figure who was Fairview’s supplier in his black-market deal, sending her on the run, never spending the night in the same place twice.
Working Stiff is an action-heavy spin on what it means to be undead, and it’ll be interesting to see what trouble Bryn can get into in the future.
Sexual content: Kissing