Every Which Way But Dead is the 3rd novel in Kim Harrison’s Witch Runner series. This is turning out to be an excellent series that keeps handing us good plots without sacrificing the characters or without having to entertain us with over-the-top violence or sexual content. This series reminds me a lot of Laurell K Hamilton series without the violence and sex of course. There is some light violence and sex in this novel, but nothing compared to what has been in the last couple of Anita Blake novels. And I think that Harrison is handling her characters and plot better that Hamilton does at times, Rachael (the witch runner) continues to be a strong believable character where Anita Blake is becoming one of the monster and becomes less believable as character in each novel. This novel continues the development of our past characters and adds a couple more, the plot is good, and Harrison’s style continues to be very readable.
Background: This is another novel that is set in the US (Cincinnati), in a not too distant future, where the supernatural have revealed themselves to humans and have become part of human society. The twist for Harrison’s novels is that humans engineered a biodrug that wiped out half or more of the human race using tomatoes as a vector. This caused the supernaturals and humans to be equal population-wise so the supernaturals came out of the closet so to speak. Because of this, biodrugs became illegal therefore many of the cures we take for granted are outlawed and this sets up a great potential for an underworld of crime for Harrison. Plus never ending comedy due to the fact that humans now find tomatoes in all its varieties from ketchup to pizza revolting. Catching the main character Rachael in socially un-PC situations with her human contacts. Also of note in Harrison’s world is that there is a parallel world that holds ley-line magic (or rivers of magic that can be drawn from). It is called the ever after. Demons live there and that is where our friendly demon Algaliarept, who was featured in the previous novels, lives. It also seems that witches and elves lived there too at one time, but they don’t anymore. Since the elves and witches left, the demons have destroyed it.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read the other two novels Dead Witch Walking and The Good, the Bad and the Undead then stop here! In giving the plot for this novel I have to give away spoilers from the first two novels.
Plot: Ivy (A live vampire–see below), Jenks (a pixy) and Rachael (a witch) have left the government bounty hunting service and started their own runner service (bounty hunter service). In her last run Rachael, put the local master vampire, Piscary, in jail for killing ley-line witches. Rachael has also agreed to Al’s (short for Algaliarept) familiar, except she gets to keep her soul, in exchange for his testimony during Piscary’s trial. But since she still has her soul, he can’t use her unless he can drag her off to the ever after which as long as she stays on holy ground after dark he can’t do. She just has to remember that and figure out a way to get out of her bargain with the demon.
Nick has left not being able to stand being around her since she drew power through him (She in a previous novel had accidentally turned him into her familiar) to save herself from Piscary. Kisten is taking the opportunity to move in as a potential boyfriend (maybe he is not as bad as we thought?), much to Ivy’s dismay. Add to this that a new ley-line witch Saladan has moved into town to try to take over both Trent’s (bad guy in first two novels'”runs brimstone and biodrugs) and Piscary’s business. He is running bad brimstone (illegal drug) that is killing people and he set fire to the orphanage. He is one bad dude, and Piscary by the way of Kisten and Trent both want Rachael’s help in assessing and perhaps getting rid off Saladan. Plus she and Ivy have agreed to serve as security for Takata’s (first big supernatural music superstar) Solstice concert. Can’t a girl catch a breather? Plus there is also the matter of this Werewolf that keeps following her around–what could he possibly want? Can Rachael stay demon-free and alive until the Winter Solstice? Read and Find out.
Harrison’s characters are still good. Rachael is still strong and willful–though she is starting to bend her own rules a bit (I just hope she doesn’t fall all the way as Hamilton’s Anita has seemed to). Ivy is a still a very interesting character of duplicity–she wants to be Rachael’s friend and not hurt her, yet she is drawn to her and seems to really want her for a Scion. They really seem to fit each other as Scion and Vampire'”plus they seem to be more and more attracted to one another. This will be interesting to watch play out. Plus Ivy is now Piscary’s Scion. But she seems to be adjusting to her and Rachael’s relationship better. Then there is Kisten, another live vampire (live vampire is a vampire child that is born of a human and a vampire–they can still go on holy ground and walk in the light, and they also have some supernatural powers, and they become true vampires when they “turn” or die; they can also be someone who has caught the vampire virus from a vampire bit–but these still have to be turned after dead–they will not automatically become vampires like hereditary vampires). Kisten is Ivy’s Friend and Ex-boyfriend. Now that Nick is out of the picture he is making a play for Rachael–and she is attracted to him. This should also be interesting to watch play out as well. Jenks (the pixy who also works with Ivy and Rachael) is not featured much at all in this novel, and again I kind of miss the great banter between Rachael and Jenks that was so prominent in the first novel. Nick, the human Rachael rescued and fell for in the first novel is totally absent in this novel. Have we seen the last of him? Plus we get a new character Ceri, she was Al’s old familiar and Rachael has Al set her free and give her back her soul before Rachael becomes his familiar. She is an elf and a very interesting character indeed. She is a thousand years old and I have a feeling that we will learn more about her in future novels. Plus we also get introduced to Erica, Ivy’s little sister. Who is a spunky teenage live vampire. We learn a little more about Ivy by seeing her family. All these characters are very nicely done and seem very 3-D. They all have their setbacks and worries and well as the strengths. While some of the characters are missing like Nick and Jenks we do watch Kisten, Ivy and Rachael evolve through the novel.
Harrison’s has developed a very unique version of the supernatural incorporated into the now complete with some interesting characters–that have stayed interesting. The plot moved well, it did have plenty of action, and the book was easy to follow and read without being boring. She is good at explaining the “rules” of this world without dumping too much info on us at time. She gives some very scientific reasonings (like Witch chromosomes being different than human so no witch/human children and that elf DNA has been degrading due to a demon curse) for some things mixed into the magical. Which is very nice if you happen to be a biology geek like me. I have enjoyed her novels and characters thus far and if you enjoy Laurell K Hamilton’s books then you should enjoy Harrison’s as well although Harrison’s books don’t have the gore and sex that are rampant in Hamilton’s novels. Plus I think she writes better characters and plots than Hamilton does at times. I look forward to reading Harrison’s next novel.