Book Review: Dead Witch Walking

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

This book was the first time I made use of the Amazon recommendation function to try a new book. Having bought Already Dead, their information gathering programme decided I should try other books involving detective work and vampires (and witches and pixies, oh my) and came up with the Rachel Morgan series, the first of with is Dead Witch Walking (all of the titles are puns – The Good, The Bad, and the Undead; Every Which Way But Dead; A Fistful of Charms – which is cute).

Rachel Morgan is a witch, a former runner with the Inderlander Runner Services, a government body that handles the crimes committed by the magical community, which is now out in the open following a genetically engineered virus that killed half of the world’s human population. She quit the service, but has to pay for it (something to do with breaking her contract – I never really understood the reasoning behind this), which she thinks she will be able to do by capturing Trent Kalamack, a suspected drug lord who hides behind the respectability of being a prominent citizen.

In doing this, she is helped by Ivy, a vampire who doesn’t feed, who quit with her (for reasons of her own); Jenks, a pixy she worked with; Keasley, an old yet knowlegable neighbour (across from the church she and Ivy now share); and, eventually, a human called Nick who knows all about the magic world. These people all her in her investigations into Trent and trying to find evidence that can be used against him.

The world Harrison creates is well realised (even if she does go overboard at times; however, it is the first book, so she has a lot to do) and the use of magical characters naturally in the world is impressive. I enjoyed the slightly strange world she writes about, and the different characters and interpolation of the magical into the normal world are both engaging.

The major I had problem was the tone of voice used by Harrison. The narration is first person, and there is a strange jauntiness that jibes with the hard-boiled feel of the world. I really hope it isn’t a male/female thing but it just got on my nerves, which is a shame as there is a lot to enjoy in the book. Also, it doesn’t help that the character of Rachel feels like an author wish fulfilment – witness the red-haired author and the description of red-haired Rachel.

Another factor was the setting up of the Trent character as the major villain for the series. It felt very forced, especially having him as such a large-scale bad guy but having Rachel as quite a lowly runner. He gets away in the end, of course – sorry to spoil it for you – but he’s needed for later in the series. Well, I assume he will because I won’t be around for them. The occasionally irritating narration, the forced plot mechanics and author-as-lead-character (at least, as obvious as this – Joe Pitt doesn’t feel like a Charlie Huston substitute in Already Dead) were all too much to for me, even if I enjoyed the world Harrison created. At least I tried something new, and I’ll know not to go by Amazon’s recommendation in the future.

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