Welcome to this week’s“meeting” of the Preternatura Book Club! A few weeks ago, commenters voted on which novel they’d like to tackle first, and the winner by a landslide was Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking, the first in her Hollows series featuring witch Rachel Morgan.
Here’s how it works. Each week, I’ll post a summary (spoiler alert!) on two chapters, and we’ll chat about them. Try to minimize spoilers beyond what’s happened in the book we’ve read so far. You can read along, read ahead, or just stop by and read the summaries. After the Book Club has been up a few days, I’ll move it to archives so you can still come back and read. There’s a “Book Club” tab above. So, let’s get started!
DEAD WITCH WALKING, CHAPTERS 13 and 14
When we last left Rachel, she had just had another confrontation with Ivy—or, more accurately—Kisten, the scion (living vampire servant) of the powerful master vampire Piscary. Rachel is still determined to prove that the mysterious and powerful Cincinnati councilman Trent Kalamack is dealing the illegal drug Brimstone, so she and Jenks concoct a plan to hijack her former I.S. coworker, the inept Francis. She plans to disguise herself, call herself Francine, and meet with Trent Kalamack in Francis’s place.
The hijack goes according to plan. Rachel slips into his red convertible (license plates: BUSTED) in his parking deck, and rides along as Jenks threatens him with a sleepy-time potion Rachel has made up. Of course, Francis thinks it’s something more lethal. Rachel needs his wheels and she doesn’t know how to drive a stick-shift. Francis keeps antagonizing Jenks by calling him a “bug,” however, and Rachel decides to let Jenks zap him with pixy dust. Apparently, it causes extreme itching and welts. Finally, Rachel decides they’re far enough out of town and she bullies Francis into the car’s trunk, zaps him with sleepy-time potion, and takes the wheel.
The security as she reaches the Kalamack estate is high, and the guards more wary than she expected. They finally let her through the gates, and she drives far into the woods—intentional woods, planted for effect—before reaching the actual estate house. She and Jenks split up, even though she has a bad feeling about the gardener, who has suspiciously clean shoes.
She’s met at the door by an officious PR guy, Jonathan, who underestimates Rachel and falls for her ditzy female act, so he leads her far into the house, headed for Trent Kalamack’s back office. He gets a call on the way, and it’s clear from his “Yes, sa’han,” answers he’s in trouble. He does an about-face and takes Rachel back to the front, public office and leaves her there alone.
Rachel waves at the security camera and, since she figures she’s busted anyway, starts to snoop. Trent, she learns, likes maple candy and pre-Turn bourbon. She digs through his desk and finds a drawer full of computer disks labeled with the names of diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc. She goes through Trent’s desk calendar and figures out that one of the “diseases” is marked for a shipment at the same time each week. Trent comes in just as she’s about to try and get one of the disks to open on the computer. She slips it into her pocket.
Finally, we get our first look at Trent Kalamack. He’s a few inches taller than Rachel, has almost-white blonde hair that’s fine and silky, green eyes without a touch of blue, and a light tan. Rachel finds him attractive, which annoys her.
Trent knows exactly who she is, and says he didn’t expect her so soon. He wants to hire her—or, as Rachel interprets it—he wants to buy her. He’d planned to let her run from the I.S. till she was desperate enough to take his offer of money and protection. To Rachel’s annoyance, she’s kinda tempted. But not tempted enough. She tells Trent what her plan is—to expose him as a Brimstone dealer and pay off her I.S. contract so Denon will quit trying to kill her.
In a very creepy bit of dialogue, Trent lets her know he is aware of every single move she’s made since leaving the I.S., even down to the detail of the vampire dating manual she’s been reading on the bus and her hijacking of Francis. Rachel refuses to be bought, so Trent tells her she can leave—along with a very angry Jenks, whom Jonathan brings in imprisoned in a glass ball. But he wants the disk she stole first.
Rachel can’t figure out what Trent is. She’s pretty sure he’s not human, and he has a lot of vampirish traits but he isn’t—his personal space is too large. He doesn’t want anyone close. As Rachel hands over the disk, some almost-imperceptible change comes over Trent and it dawns on Rachel what he’s up to. Trent isn’t just dealing Brimstone, a prison offense. He’s dealing Biodrugs, for which offenders are “staked, burned, and scattered.” It isn’t clear at this stage exactly what biodrugs are.
Jonathan puts a hand on her shoulder, and Rachel takes him down, to Jonathan’s humiliation. Trent treats him dismissively in front of her, which ratchets Jonathan’s hatred of her even higher. As Rachel is leaving with Jenks, she “walked free, back out into the sun, more afraid of what I had turned down than of having left the I.S.”
So, what do you think about Trent Kalamack after this first meeting? What do you think he’s up to? A detail I’d forgotten, and I can’t remember the significance of, is Trent’s screensaver (Roger, I bet you remember): the numbers 20, 5, and 1.
Another funny thing that continues: Rachel is apparently dowsing herself in lavender perfume to mask any scent Ivy might find attractive, and she’s choking everyone. Even Trent commented on it.
LET’S CHAT! Tell me what you think of Trent. You’re going to see a lot of him. Things you particularly like about these chapters. Are you hooked yet?