Don’t Kill the Messenger (Messenger #1) by Eileen Rendahl
I have to admit, I was hesitant when I first heard about this book through Dark Faerie Tales’ debut urban fantasy authors challenge. The online blurb didn’t really thrill me so I didn’t want to purchase the book. Thankfully, the local public library had it on order and it just came in.
Don’t Kill the Messenger is set in Sacramento, so our intrepid protagonist, Melina Markowitz has a lovely backdrop for her adventures. Melina is a Messenger, a go-between for things that go bump in the night, and also works in an ER since being a Messenger doesn’t pay. One of the ER doctors, Alex, is a vampire, and he asks Melina to do her thing and take an envelope to another vampire. Unfortunately, ninjas steal the envelope from Melina and she is compelled to go after it. Her search leads her to a Taoist temple in Old Sacramento (random, no?). Alex tells her that the envelope contains a talisman used by Taoist priests to control kiang shi, also known as Chinese vampires. The kiang shi are killing gang members, for reasons Melina initially can’t figure out.
Melina’s pursuit of the kiang shi leads her to Ted Goodnight, a local cop who really wants to solve the surge in gang violence. He keeps running into Melina over and over again, setting up a romantic question, as well as one more hurdle for Melina to deal with.
Before I talk about my thoughts on the book, I should say that the reason I was a bit put off stems from my odd childhood habit of watching Chinese movies late at night on OMNI. The one that stands out involves kiang shi, who really don’t sound all that scary when you know what they’re like: they hop because they can’t walk, they’ll stab you with their fingernails, and they can use their eyebrows as weapons. And you can stop them by holding your breathe and climbing a couple stairs (at least at first). Not terribly fearsome in this light, at least not to me. (You can read more on Monstropedia.)
With all this in mind, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Don’t Kill the Messenger. I’m pleased to say this wasn’t the case. I really enjoyed the book. Melina’s involvement in the supernatural is a novel creation that was a lot of fun, and leaves a lot of room for future stories. Eileen Rendahl has created an exciting world and strong characters injected with just the right amount of humour. The plot moves along in interesting if somewhat predictable ways, and there are some great reveals over the course of the story about some of the secondary characters.
Although Don’t Kill the Messenger is a solid entry into the genre, I don’t think the book is on par with the creations of the truly stand-out authors in the field, like Ilona Andrews, Gail Carriger, Jennifer Estep, Kelley Armstrong, Vicki Pettersson, and Rachel Vincent. Eileen Rendahl has created a world with a lot of potential and it will be interesting to see where things go from here.
(Still) almost halfway there for the Dark Faerie Tales challenge…And the book’s doing double duty by finishing off my vampire reading challenge.