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Friday, August 10, 2012

'Two Weeks' Notice' Revivalist #2 by Rachel Caine

 Received from the Publisher 

From the BLURB:

After dying and being revived with the experimental drug Returné, Bryn Davis is theoretically free to live her unlife - with regular doses to keep her going. But Bryn knows that the government has every intention of keeping a tight lid on Pharmadene's life-altering discovery, no matter the cost.

Fortunately, some things have changed for the better; her job at the rechristened Davis Funeral Home is keeping her busy and her fragile romance with Patrick McCallister is blossoming - thanks in part to their combined efforts in forming a support group for Returne addicts. But when some of the group members suddenly disappear, Bryn wonders if the government is methodically removing a threat to their security, or if some unknown enemy has decided to run the zombies into the ground . . .

** WARNING: this review contains spoilers of book #1 ‘Working Stiff’ **

Bryn Davis is caught between a rock and a hard place. Or, to be more precise, a live and a dead place. She is neither here nor there, not really. Because Bryn is living on injected time – having been ‘revived’ from death using a drug called Returné, which embroiled her in a mega-conspiracy web concerning a company called Pharmadene who manufacture the life-preserving drug.

But Bryn has discovered a way to keep getting her daily doses of the expensive Returné without having to be indebted to the questionable company behind its manufacturing. With the help of ex-Pharmadene employee (now Bryn’s almost-lover), Patrick McAllister and a paranoid genius called Manny, Bryn is being given a home-brew of the drug. And running her own Funeral Home Service with Patrick’s associate, Joe Fideli, is keeping her busy and out of Pharmadene’s way.

But that doesn’t mean the company is entirely done with Bryn. Her sister, Annalie, is still missing (presumed kidnapped) for reasons as yet unknown. And when some ex-Pharmadene, Returné-dependent employees seek Bryn’s help in dealing with their ‘undead’ state, she feel compelled to offer her services and wisdom, which again drags her back into the company’s orbit . . .

‘Two Week’s Notice’ is the second novel in Rachel Caine’s Big-Pharma urban fantasy thriller series, ‘Revivalist’.

Last year I got hooked on Rachel Caine’s new series ‘Revivalist’ – which was no surprise since I’m a fan of anything and everything Caine writes, from her ‘Morganville Vampires’ series to ‘Weather Warden’ and its spin-off ‘Outcast Season’. Like many Caine books before it, ‘Revivalist’ suckered me in with a ballsy heroine, slow-burning romance, long-game story and a sensationally tricky spin on an old immortality plot. And I’m happy to report that Caine’s brilliant set-up in ‘Working Stiff’ is proving ‘Revivalist’ to be a truly addictive series, if this second outing in ‘Two Weeks’ Notice’ is any indication.

We begin again with Bryn Davis, who suffered from an enormous case of wrong-place-wrong-time in ‘Working Stiff’ when she was killed by her Funeral Home employer. She was bought back to life by Patrick McAllister using Returné, the very drug her boss had killed her over when she snooped to close to the Pharmadene secret behind the Home’s double-resurrection-dealings. After a long tussle with Pharmadene, Bryn finally won a modicum of freedom when she joined forces with Pat McAllister, his tough friend Joe Fideli and their crazy scientist buddy, Manny. Now Bryn is able to continue ‘living’, thanks to Manny’s replicas of the Returné formula. But Pharmadene isn’t quite finished with Bryn yet. Not when former undead employers seek her help in adjusting to their ‘unlife’, and certainly not when Bryn’s younger sister, Annalie, has been kidnapped for reasons as yet unknown, but inevitably linked to Returné (the ironically life-giving and life-destroying drug).

I loved reading about the Pharmadene/Returné set-up in ‘Working Stiff’ – it was such a wonderful spin on the usual immortal storyline, that instead of zombies or vampires, Bryn was given prolonged, frozen life in the form of a daily-dosing drug that keeps her from turning into a rotting corpse. It was interesting because Caine had put so much nefarious thought behind the drugging immortality – wrapped up in medical warfare, Big Pharma corruption and elitist ‘health care’. In ‘Working Stiff’, explorations into Returné were very grass-roots and close to home – with Bryn seeing how far people would go to buy costly injections for their dead loved ones. But in ‘Two Weeks’ Notice’ Caine really blows the storyline up, highlighting the conspiracy theories and political warfare behind the drug. This new angle is putting Bryn on a much bigger stage – where the villainous players behind the scenes have deeper pockets and more to lose. I love, love, love this frighteningly complex ‘undead’ plot – for all its corporate espionage and deadly cover-ups, it’s just begging to be adapted to film or TV for all the nitty-gritty, endless possibilities.

I will admit that in ‘Working Stiff’ I took a little longer than usual to warm up to Rachel Caine’s characters. Normally they’re so witty and warm right off the bat, that as readers we’re made to side with them almost instantly. Not so with Bryn. While she does follow in the Caine tradition of being a ballsy and admirable female heroine (don’t ya just love reading those?!) she was quite a more brittle and stand-offish protagonist than we’re used to from Caine’s characters. But there’s good reason for that – simply that Bryn is one of the most complex women Caine has ever written. She’s ex-military and dealing with the trauma from a life spent in warfare. When we met her in ‘Working Stiff’ she was very much trying to reassimilate back into society, and then she went and got herself killed . . . we met her when she was thrown into the deep end and left to flounder.

Well, in ‘Two Weeks’ Notice’ Bryn is a little more stabilized in her ‘undead’ life, but no less secure or sure of what the future holds for her. Or what she even wants out of her ‘unlife’, for that matter. She’s still a prickly character; but she’s also a protagonist going through the greatest upheaval of any Caine character, which makes her cock-sure, armoured attitude that much more compelling and complex.

I also took a while to warm up to the romance in Caine’s ‘Revivalist’ series, again it could come down to the fact that it’s the most tangled she has ever written. Patrick McAllister gave the order for Bryn to be bought back to life with Returné. Add that to the fact that he’s an ex-Pharmadene employee, and it’s more than clear the hurdles he and Bryn have to overcome. I loved reading about them in ‘Two Weeks’ Notice’ – because all those tangled webs and complications make for quite the burning romance, one in which the characters (let alone readers!) don’t know which way is up.

“Sorry,” she said faintly. “I don’t know what happened.”
“You were running on adrenaline even before you overloaded.” His breath stirred her hair, and he kissed the side of her neck, very gently. “I’m speaking from experience when I tell you that you’ll be okay, but you can’t run hot all the time. Gear down.”
Well, she was a machine, wasn’t she? Run by machines, anyway. The black humor of that tickled the back of her throat, threatening a laugh she couldn’t release because she knew it would sound like panic. Or screaming. Cars blurred by them on the road, blowing waves of cool air over them. Bryn’s hair ruffled in the wind like silk, and she closed her eyes, finally, and let that rushing sensation take over. Patrick’s body anchored her in place, and the wind stroked over her, soothed her, like the roar of the ocean.

I also think the ‘Revivalist’ series is some of Rachel Caine’s best writing. Being a fan of her high-octane ‘Morganville Vampires’ and ‘Weather Warden’ series, I've always admired and complimented her action scenes. Rachel Caine is a true master at writing those adrenaline-fuelled, nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat scenes. But with ‘Revivalist’ she’s really showing her mettle in the subtler things – like Bryn’s constant battle between feeling alive and knowing that she’s just one late injection away from being a rotting corpse. So we get some lovely scenes in which Caine writes the juxtaposition of the bustling, live-wire world around her, compared to Bryn’s inner-monologue about being a Returné-machine.

But, as I said, Caine does excel at writing the heart-pumping, thrill-rides – and that’s especially true in ‘Two Weeks’ Notice’. In this book we get one of the best, most hauntingly sadistic villains I've read in a long time – Jane. What she does will chill you to the bone and put you off Green Jell-O for life. But it’s the jaw-dropping double-twist towards the end, that will knock you down and have you perking up for third book, ‘Terminated’ (coming August 2013). I suspected with ‘Working Stiff’, but Rachel Caine’s ‘Two Weeks’ Notice’ has cemented ‘Revivalist’, in my mind at least, as the new must-read urban fantasy thriller.



  1. This sounds so unique, I love that her immortality is due to a drug and not because she got bitten by some paranormal creature, very clever!

    I have been meaning to read something by Rachel and while the Morganville series is daunting due to the number of books, this I could catch up on easily! Great review, Danielle!

    1. This series is ... GAH! ... I just love it :) you should def check it out.

      'Morganville' is daunting at a glance, but the books are all about 250 pages so they're not tomes. 'Weather Warden' is also great. I just generally love everything Rachel Caine writes - and I've got to say, she writes some of the best kick-butt female characters.

  2. It's really helpful to get all reviews in one place.

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  3. Ahhh you are SO right - can you imagine a Revivalist TV Show? It would be amazing! We need to get about casting this!

  4. i am so glad you loved it Dani! I am really looking forward to the next as well!


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