The first in a legal-based urban fantasy series, This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova is set in a world where the ‘Powers’ – vampires, werewolves and Álfar (elves) – have recently revealed themselves and have staked their claim on New York society.
Opening with main character Linnet Ellery’s first day at her new job, the book gets off to a good start with the world building and background information about her place of work. Having recently graduated from law school, Linnet has gained a prestigious job at Ishmael, McGillary and Gold, a top law firm in the city. She has a sneaking suspicion that her connection to one of the partners, Shade Ishmael, helped her to secure the position, but this is never really explored in her first person narration. There is the passing inference that she might not have earned the job, but this is very much forgotten after the early chapters.
She is introduced to her new boss, Chip Westin, a seemingly disorganised man whose office is covered in sheets of paper relating to one particular divorce case which has stretched on for seventeen years. It is Linnet’s job to help him finally resolve the case, with the wife seeking a share in her ex-husband’s multi-million dollar company. As he is has since passed away, supposedly without a will, it is up to the firm to gain her a suitable settlement from the bosses at Securitech, an influential business which happens to be run by werewolves.
Chip appears to have several new leads to go on, but keeps the information locked in his head and has not yet trusted Linnet with his secrets. However, when they are both working late one night and are attacked by a werewolf, Linnet thinks there must be more to this divorce case than meets the eye. With Chip gone, and his information with him, she is left with a mountain of paperwork to sort through in pursuit of clues to resolve the case with the best result for both parties. She also has to contend with the trauma of experiencing the attack, as well as the amorous attentions of one of the firm’s partners, seductive vampire, Ryan.
Then there are bitchy women in the office who haven’t offered one kind gesture of welcome, as well as the unwanted attention of senior partner, Gold, who seems to think that she has no right to be there and would very much wish to see her fired. As she follows the leads left by Chip, Linnet is drawn into a dangerous investigation that sees her attacked more than once, with all clues pointing at Securitech. Enlisting the help of gorgeous Álfar, John O’Shea, who frequently works as the company’s private detective, they set off to discover the truth behind the case and what secrets are worth killing for.
I liked the main plotline of this book, as it was interesting to learn about different legal terms and the experience of entering this cutthroat world of highly competitive business people. However, there were also too many subplots with very little relevance that I found a little pointless. For example, there was another divorce case that Linnet settled which only took up one scene and introduced characters which had no bearing on the Securitech case at all. Then there was Linnet’s passion for horse riding, a tool manipulated by Ryan and then played on again with another irrelevant client. Although it was interesting to learn about different riding techniques, it felt like too much of distraction from the main plot tensions and was more about the character having fun rather than the reader.
I found it hard to connect with Linnet as a main character as a lot of good fortune seemed to fall into her lap, despite the attempts to assert her as a strong woman. Although she has her good moments in dealing with her co-workers, a lot of the time she is controlled and manipulated by the other characters without realising just how much. This was frustrating, especially as she kept leaning on the men in her life whenever she was attacked, with each one seeming to fall at her feet. Although the situation with Ryan is unexpected and handled well by Linnet, her connection with John felt too instantaneous.
As an Álfar, John was exceedingly beautiful, with the gentlemanly personality to match, but he didn’t really progress as a character until the last quarter of the book. From here, the events felt rushed and far too convenient for my liking, with not enough build up between events. It went from action to action with barely any cooling off period, which didn’t allow for much character development between John and Linnet. There seemed to be more exploration of minor characters than main ones, with everyone given some level of detail that wasn’t entirely necessary.
There was one aspect of the book that I did really enjoy, being the world building as vampires, werewolves and Álfar supposedly revealed themselves thirty-odd years ago and were accepted into modern society. Of course, there were still those with prejudices, which is where Linnet’s family life came in. She was adopted by vampires at the age of eight, in a deal her dad made, but still has contact with both her vampire father and her human parents. It was because of her vampire connections that she got ahead in life, with her adoptive father giving her everything she wanted, including horses. I’m hoping to find out more about the supernatural society in the next book, as neither vampires nor werewolves can Make a female into one of them, only choosing the males. Linnet enquires into this at one stage, so I get the feeling that we may learn more in future.
This book had the great premise of vampires and werewolves being out in the open and at the head of New York society, especially in Linnet’s law firm. I thought this was let down by the writing style and by some of the impromptu events of the novel, particularly where Linnet’s love life was concerned, despite the potential for a great story. Although there were several attacks, they were all expected and without any spectacular plot twists.
Rating: 3 Stars
This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova
(Linnet Ellery #1)
Tor Books (2 July 2013)
Paperback: 320 pages