Review – The Good, the Bad and the Undead

The Good, the Bad and the Undead (The Hollows No.2) – Kim Harrison

HarperVoyager, 2006

Originally published in 2005

Everyone likes the idea of an independent ‘runner’ taking down Inderlanders who break the law, but paying one is another matter. Having barely survived the exit from her last job, Rachel Morgan is struggling to make a living from her new one. When she’s brought in as a consultant on the notorious ‘witch hunter’ murder case, it’s exactly the break she needs, particularly since she has a strong theory in mind. But there are a few things she’s failed to take into account. Her messy history with councilman Trent Kalamack. Her moody partner and housemate Ivy’s connections to the city’s vampire underworld. And how Rachel fits the murderer’s profile to a T…

I had a few minor reservations about the first Hollows novel, Dead Witch Walking, but overall enjoyed it very much and was looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately, it disappointed me badly. There were multiple gaping plot holes that made Rachel look anything but competent, and her relationship with Ivy – integral to my enjoyment of the first book – suffered so much damage that, while Harrison could clearly move past it, I certainly could not. I’ll explain that in more detail under the spoilers tag. The world Harrison created is an interesting one and there’s a lot to like about the central characters, but this was much too frustrating for me to continue with the series.

Spoilers: (Trigger warning for references to rape) The scene in which Ivy pressures Rachel to become her ‘scion’ (a position somewhere between servant and lover, there to provide their vampire master with blood) is written as a sexual assault – Ivy taking advantage of her superior physical strength to manhandle Rachel, using the scar from a demonic injury to further distort Rachel’s ability to give informed consent, ignoring all of Rachel’s boundaries and pleas for her to stop – but nobody within the narrative treats the incident as a serious violation and Rachel consistently blames herself for it happening at all. This is classic victim-blaming, which makes it all the more bizarre when Ivy later suffers a similar experience and Rachel calls it rape – because while that’s undoubtedly what it is, how is it possible for the two events to receive such different treatment? Just because Ivy’s attacker got what he wanted from the encounter and Ivy did not get what she wanted from Rachel does not make the attempt any more acceptable. And neither incident is acceptable in the slightest.

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