Thursday, February 1, 2018

Blood, Dirt and Lies (Death Witch #3) by Rachel Graves

Mallory the Death Witch can talk to ghosts which should really help her as a murder detective. But cryptic messages from a drowned ghost aren’t that helpful in actually solving their murder

When a second almost murder happens nearly right in front of her - and both victims seem to be heavily politically connected which brings even more of a level of pressure and complexity - and personal risk. These are powerful enemies to make

This book adds nicely to the world building in nicely gentle, non-info-dumpy ways. I really like how the book expanded on Selkies, giving us lots of hints about their culture without necessarily sitting us down for a lecture. Similarly the references to how magical beings had obviously faced brutal persecution and predation was referenced - and by referencing it we got the full history and ideal without actually having to lay it all out there. Similarly we have references to different magical creatures beyond the immediate ones we’ve seen as well as the different gods of the witches: and how those can blend with other traditions (one of Mallory’s friends is Jewish and a witch)

I really like how the world building is done in this book - in this series - this general gentle build, the exposure to many elements of the world time after time but never actually throwing a lot of it at us in a way that is false or confusing or irrelevant, making it all grow naturally

And I really like its depiction of police work, complete with so many red herrings, frustrations, complete lack of leads, going back, trying again, and again, looking for some clue. No easy fx, not quick answer with lots of wild theories on the way. And at the same time the police actually have lives, none of this idea that they should all spend every waking moment on the job. Yes they have lives and friends and hobbies and exercise and go running on a full moon through werewolf haunted woods (hey I didn’t say they did sensible things in their free time. Though, honestly, while I this is the kind of decision that would normally make me roll me eyes, I really like how this was portrayed. With mallory planning her perfect day, having it disrupted and promising herself that she could still salvage it, she could still get in that run, even as it increasingly became obvious she couldn’t, she promised herself it and couldn’t let it go. I can see that - because it’s the sort of thing people who do. Who like running, I guess. I mean, i find the whole thing quite bizarre, but if you sub in “pizza” for “run” then it makes a lot more sense). And they don’t spend all their time focusing on one case either. This murder matters - but there’s a lot of crime out there!

The plot just works with all this, her friends work with this and I love the world building

An element about Mallory and Jakob’s relationship - it is rare and interesting to have a series start with a relationship rather than have them fall in love and build a relationship during the series. I like the idea of that as it starts us in a very different place and also avoids fast forwarding the relationship. We also have Mallory and Jakob living very different lives which is also very different from most of the genre. Jakob is a vampire but he’s also a businessman, he has his own life and job and it doesn’t really intersect with Mallory’s job as a police detective. This is, again, really unique and I like it - I like that they have a relationship and don’t constantly live in each other’s lives and Mallory doesn’t have to fall back on Jakob’s woo-woo, resources or anything else. It’s surprisingly unique and I like it a lot

But… and I feel nitpicky saying it… I don’t have a huge sense of their relationship. Certainly not that they’re in love to the point of her moving in with them because they don’t seem to spend a lot of time together… I mean they spend time together - and have sex. He cooks for her - which is nice; and I really like how this goes into his past about how he faced famine and lost family members. This is excellent on several levels because it stops romanticising the past and adds an extra level of pathos to what living hundreds of years means and how it can leave long lasting scars. I mean it’s great about his development - but for their relationship? The one thing they willingly share together is now kind of pathologised… and it was all they had was sex (and they have a lot of sex - and I’m not against sex but they need something other than sex, desperate feeder obsession and Painful Conversations About Vampires). The few social occasions they spend together - going to his church for mass (she’s not religious), a birthday party for E (which Mallory spent all evening being kind of a less than pleasant grump), watching the super-bowl (which Jakob isn’t really interested in). I get tolerating your partner’s hobbies, believe me, I’m endured a lot of inept attempts to learn how to play musical instruments - but your relationship needs to be more than sex, deep-seated insecurity and then tolerating each other.

I really like that they have seperate lives and we didn’t see the beginning of the relationship - but now we need to see that actual relationship

I love Mallory’s circle of friends, they’re racially diverse, they’re loyal, even when they’ve got stuff going on they always make time for each other, always care about each other, always know what’s going on in each other’s lives. It’s one of the best friends depiction I’ve seen in a long time

There is an issue: can this series please never ever ever ever ever mention LGBTQ people again? Ever. Please. Please just stop. Please no more. The first book had “Jakob’s a violent homophobe but that’s perfectly fine” as well as a lesbian desperately pining after a straight woman. The second book had lesbian being punished by god for being a COWARD and WEAK by being in the closet. And, this book? Well that goddess now decides she needs little witchy babies and magically compels Anna - THE LESBIAN - to have lots of sex with a man. Hey, Mallory isn’t super happy about this but not exactly super perturbed either given we’re dealing with DIVINE FECKING CONVERSION THERAPY and rape?! Worse, even ANNA isn’t that upset by this. Do you know who is? Anna’s girlfriend Nancy. Or, as Mallory calls her, her “room-mate”. Though she describes her, basically, as a freeloader who doesn’t care about Anna. Are we following this, we just demonised this woman who loves Anna, lives with Anna so we can drive her out (and her romantic gestures are completely dismissed) so Anna can make a family with a man she’s been magically raped into making a baby with because some god - the same god that made her come out last book - now finds her lesbianism inconvenient so now straightened her up.

I wasn’t thrilled by this storyline to say the least. I was also not thrilled by the gay werewolf having his face broken by said homophobic vampire (he kissed Jakob! Uh, yes, Jakob was literally trying to kill him because he touched his woman: that kiss actually represents one of the best non-violent ways to de-escalate that fight)

I honestly mean it when i say please remove the LGBTQ people because without this steadily escalating trainwreck, this series would be so much much more fun to read - because there is so much about this book I love, the world, the characters, the plot line. But stalking off in disgust because we’ve just divine conversion therapied a lesbian so she can have a baby, kicked out her girlfriend and is now all warm and fuzzy with the daddy is not conducive to enjoying any book