Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: Pay Me in Flesh by K. Bennett

Pay Me in Flesh (Mallory Caine, Zombie at Law #1) by K. Bennett

I've heard a lot of bad jokes about lawyers through the years, especially from lawyers themselves. It's a profession that gets a lot of attention if not always a lot of respect. In all the iterations of the 21st century zombie craze, it seems logical that someone would write a book about a zombie lawyer. Not a lawyer who defends zombies, but who is a zombie herself. Meet Mallory Caine, zombie at law.

Now, in this version of zombies, apparently she doesn't look like a zombie. When we first meet her, she is being held in contempt by a judge. As they discuss the matter in his chambers, he makes a very aggressive pass at her. She shows a lot of restraint, not eating him then and there. She threatens to blow the whistle on him but he tells her everyone will think she made it up. He sends her to lockup to cool off.

She's bailed out by her ex-boyfriend, prosecuting attorney Aaron Argula, who conveniently shows up and wants to get back with her. She would be interested except for this little personality flaw she's developed, namely the taste for human brains. Plus, he dumped her back in the day so things still need to get smoothed out.

Mallory has a crummy office across from a dubious P.I. She defends many a dubious client, some of whom do not pay, especially when she doesn't win the case. But a deal's a deal, and like Shylock, she eventually gets her pound of flesh from the occasional deadbeat client. Mallory's other source of nourishment is dressing up as a hooker and leading men off to their doom in quiet areas of town. One such fellow happens to be an undercover cop. She doesn't know it at the time. In a nice twist, she defends the girl who is accused of killing the cop. That girl is a fellow streetwalker Mallory knows. And, she's a vampire! The prosecuting attorney is of course Aaron, who has nothing special about him aside from his devastating good looks and his super-smart (and probably super-delicious) brains.

The story may seem a bit hectic and have lots of elements thrown in, but that is its charm. Mallory tells her story in a first-person narration with the kind of patter used by the likes of Sam Spade or Mike Hammer. A lot of humor lightens what could have been a ponderous book. She has moral dilemmas about eating people and troubles with her past (what mysterious thing happened at her birth, how did she become a zombie, and who is trying to pull her strings?) which makes the story interesting and her sympathetic.

The book reads a bit like a pilot of a TV show, setting up lots of ongoing story lines but resolving few of them. The main trial comes to a conclusion but other mysteries are left for sequels. So far, two other books have been written, The Year of Eating Dangerously and I Ate the Sheriff. I'll be reading (and reviewing) these in due course, since I enjoyed this one.

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