DEADWORLD (Jackie Rutledge #1)
by J. N. Duncan
RELEASE DATE: April 2011
FORMAT: Ebook, 420 pages
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
She’s as tough as anything haunting Chicago’s streets. But to deal with an inhuman power that won’t stay buried, this FBI agent needs help that comes at an immortal price… Jackie Rutledge has seen her share of supernatural killers. But her latest murder case is what recurring nightmares are made of. Brutally exsanguinated human victims, vanishing-into-the-ether …moreShe’s as tough as anything haunting Chicago’s streets. But to deal with an inhuman power that won’t stay buried, this FBI agent needs help that comes at an immortal price…
Jackie Rutledge has seen her share of supernatural killers. But her latest murder case is what recurring nightmares are made of. Brutally exsanguinated human victims, vanishing-into-the-ether evidence, and a city on the edge of panic mean that she and her psychic partner, Laurel, are going to need more than just backup … So Jackie is fine with any help rugged P.I. Nick Anderson can give—even if that includes the impish ghost and sexy vampire who make up his team. But Nick is hiding secrets of his own. And Jackie’s investigation has plunged them both into a vengeful game reaching back centuries—and up against a malevolent force hungry for more than just victory… (Goodreads)
DEADWORLD is a rollercoaster of an urban fantasy book with characters that have so many issues, even Freud would have been lost in helping them. It’s one of those books that you realise you have been reading for nearly two hours, without any breaks and you’re still dying to find out more!
Before starting DEADWORLD, I was expecting the usual run of the mill paranormal romance, where the big brooding alpha male would end up saving and falling for the tough as nails female, who ends up as putty in his hands due to the usual plot devices that are thrown into the growing market of books in this genre. But by the end of the prologue, I was eating my words and scolding myself for judging the book by its cover, as this is most definitely an urban fantasy.
The first chapter is creepy and unnerving due to the fact you only have the name of a boy who has run away from home due to his parents fighting. By the end a sense of dread washes over the reader, only to see the brutal outcome in chapter two.
It’s from here we are introduced to the main characters.
Jackie Rutlidge, who the series is named after, is an FBI agent, who to be honest has so many issues ranging from a troubled past, to a serious drinking problem that results in her making very dubious choices, in both bed partners and dealing with a troublesome work colleague. She isn’t your typical lead female and I found myself really feeling pity for her. She put me in mind of Salander from The Girl… Trilogy by Steig Larson. In fact both Jackie and Salander could be long lost sisters due to how much emotion baggage they both carry.
The only difference is that Jackie has the emotional support of her partner and best friend Laurel, a medium who can sense the dead. She too has her own personal demons that come to the surface through the progression of the story. Laurel is Jackie’s moral compass and she tries her best to keep Jackie grounded. For a secondary character, Laurel is very well developed and you end up sympathising with the fact that she is fighting a number of feelings in order to keep Jackie as her friend. What I thought was a really brave move by the author, was having Laurel coming out as a lesbian in a way which is both ballsy and heart wrenching.
The awkwardness between both characters is neither forced nor is it brushed under the carpet. For the rest of the book we see how this revelation has changed their friendship. An excellent example of this is the introduction of a love interest for Laurel, in the shape of the male leads partner Shelby.
Out of all the characters, Shelby seemed the most out of place for me. Sure she is strong and tough, much like Jackie, but at times she seemed to be there only for convenience and added little to the plot. I think the author was trying to make her the equivalent to Nick, or hero, as Laurel was to Jackie. Sometimes it was a hit, sometimes a miss, though it didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the book.
On the subject of Nick, I loved his character. You can tell that he is at the end of his rope, ready to throw it all in and give the villain of the story what he wants if it will end the guilt he feels over the casualties that have resulted in their 100 year cat and mouse game. He is a guarded and distant character, though when I found out why he was this way, it really brought a tear to my eye.
The plot is tightly bound and I never found myself waning over it. The tension is wracked up as we realise that the villain is speeding up his timetable and we witness his next victims demise. One victim had me really going “OH MY GOD!” only due to the fact that I didn’t see it coming at all.
By the end of the book, you have been put through the wringer. There are casualties and the showdown at the end leaves our characters having to deal with some life changing results. You don’t feel that it will be concluded in the next book. In fact I didn’t even know that it was part of a series till I checked Amazon. NOTE:- DO NOT READ THE SYNOPSIS FOR BOOK TWO AS IT HAS A MAJOR SPOILER FOR THIS BOOK!
I must mention that there is the beginning of a romance between both Nick and Jackie, but due to the events in the book it doesn’t progress very far. I think this may be the slow building relationship that will develop over the next few books, but both Nick and Jackie will have to overcome their own pasts before they can truly get together. Think of Castle and Beckett (Castle the TV show is even mentioned in the book) or Booth and Brennan from Bones.
On a final note, I didn’t know that the author was male. This shouldn’t be an issue, but what surprised me was how he managed to capture the female psyche so well. Duncan is now on my must read list and I have ordered both book 2 and 3, as well as the origin story of Nick called ‘Blood Justice’.
DEADWORLD was a surpise hit for me due to the fantastic plotlines, complex characters and edge of your seat tension. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a bit of a change from the usual urban fantasy, or fans of Jim Butcher and M. L. N. Hanover (The Black Suns Daughter series). For a first book in a series it is one of the best I have read.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
2. The Vengeful Dead
3. The Lingering Dead