This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova
Set in modern day, the world that Linnet Ellery inhabits is very much like our own. The difference is that in Linnet’s world, vampires, werewolves and the elven Álfar “came out” in the 1960s, and have established themselves as an integrated element of society. Expected stereotypes are still at play: vampires are cool (literally), cultured and somewhat resistant to change; werewolves tend to irrationality, irritability and use brute strength; Álfar are beautiful, vain and routinely utilize glamours to enchant those around them.
The daughter of an elder family of Connecticut, Linnet is fresh out of law school and starting a new job at Ishmael, McGillary and Gold, one of the “White-Fang” law firms (read: run by vampires, established, rich, traditional and powerful). She’s human, with a bit of a stubborn streak, especially when she’s told she can’t do something. She knows that even though she was head of her class in law school, she only got the job at IMG because of her connections – which include being fostered in a vampire household whose liege lord is old friends with one of the managing partners.
At the bottom of the pecking order, Linnet has only one assignment: to help on a dead-end probate case that had been in contention for 17 years. She fears that she will be consistently shunted to the side as more glamorous and savvy associates get the plum assignments – until all of a sudden her life takes an unexpected and violent turn that makes it very apparent that the case she is working on is not all that insignificant after all.
It’s impressive how effortlessly Ms. Bornikova opens this version of our world, and how seamlessly she confronts and integrates elements against which so many other authors have stumbled. For example, attempts are made on Linnet’s life but she manages to escape due to unexpected and intervening circumstances. Normally, readers have to simply accept these convenient coincidences. But in This Case Is Gonna Kill Me, that element of “luck” is acknowledged and questioned – but not as yet explained – leaving the story with a hint of more to come.
Also, the environment of a prestigious law firm is a wonderful setting for this world. The politics of power and influence are heady enough; add to that the layer of vampiric eternal life and inhuman sensibilities and you have the makings for some mighty nasty games being played. Color this with not only changing views of society but also evolving social mores and you have a wonderful milieu in which to play out the tale of a young woman rising to the challenges that appear before her – even if those challenges include attacks by werewolves, machinations by vampires and a foray into the Seelie court.
The story does get a little frantic towards the end, as the action gets faster and the danger mounts. But we’re willing to overlook this because what we really want is to follow Linnet. By now, she has become a complete character, with confidences and insecurities and relationships that ring true; even if we do not or cannot share them in our own lives, we still relate to them. We know that Linnet will survive – after all, this is the first of a series – but the bigger question is, who will survive with her? Linnet may emerge, but we’re pretty sure she won’t be unscathed. And therein lies a larger tale to come.