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 17 and 18
When we last left off, Rachel and Co. had survived a fairy attack, and Jenks was injured. Rachel was making plans to sneak back into the Trent Kalamack compound using the charm to turn herself into a mink, so she could steal evidence to prove he’s dealing Brimstone or even biodrugs. With this information, she hopes to pay off her contract with the I.S. so her ex-boss Denon will quit trying to kill her.
As Chapter 17 begins, Matalina—Mrs. Jenks—is browbeating her little man. She forbids him to go with Rachel back to the Kalamack estate. Rachel and Ivy are uncomfortable. As Rachel notes, she had not had “enough sleep to enjoy watching Jenks get henpecked.” Jenks is clearly not back to full-strength, but is fighting to go. It will be his only chance to get a good sniff of Trent Kalamack and figure out what he is (something no one else has been able to do, either). Initially, Rachel sides with Mrs. Jenks and says he can’t go—because this was a “witchocracy, not a democracy.”
We get a good look at Ivy’s obsessive-compulsive behavior in this chapter. Ivy’s a planner. Rachel realizes Ivy’s much more likely to be on board with an idea if she’s given some input. The plan is for Ivy to sign up for a tour of Trent’s gardens using a friend’s ID, disguise herself, go in with a big bag holding Rachel-the-mink, then leave said bag behind so Rachel can wait till dark and plunder through Trent’s office. Rachel offers to spell Ivy so she won’t be recognized but Ivy says she has her own disguise.
As they’re discussing this, Jenks is still begging and threatening and pleading to go, and they ignore him for a long time. Finally, Mrs. Jenks gives in and says he can go. When Ivy goes to make a phone call, Rachel asks Jenks if Ivy smells like she’s a practicing vampire again, and he says no. He’d followed her the night before, and she’d gone to a vamp bar but only drank orange juice.
Ivy comes out in her disguise—a skimpy, tight sundress, lots of makeup, big hat and sunglasses and purse. The dress, we learn, belonged to her mother before she went from living vampire to not-so-living vampire. Rachel gets all freaky because Ivy looks human, which makes Ivy go all vampy, and the two have another close call. Ivy tells Rachel to stop being afraid, and as Rachel calms herself down, Ivy relaxes as well. So we get a major step here in Rachel and Ivy learning how to coexist.
Chapter 18 is the chapter in which, on my first read of DWW, I really got hooked. Ivy’s plan goes perfectly. She gets inside with Rachel and Jenks in her bag (which smells like blood, apparently), leaves it under a bench, fakes an attack of low-blood sugar as a diversion, and leaves her bag behind. The conversation between Jenks and Rachel is really funny, because as a mink she can’t do anything except chitter and chirp, so it’s like they have separate, parallel conversations going on. Then, because Jenks is still not up to par, he’s forced to ride on mink-Rachel’s back like a cowboy, which he finds humiliating.
A detail we’ll see again in the series: Jenks dons a red hat so pixies who might live in Trent’s gardens will know he’s there in peace and not as an invader.
They find an outdoor office, and run into a bunch of “sticky silk,” a sticky kind of spiderweb material used to catch pixies—it’s how Jenks got caught before. Rachel gets it all over her and glues her mouth shut and glues her ears over her eyes, but Jenks finally frees her.
They discover Trent’s treasure trove of electronics, and Rachel accidentally starts a CD of her favorite artist, Takata, before finally getting it shut down.
Once Rachel and Jenks get inside, they run into Trent and his assistant Jonathan having a business conversation. Jenks is able to get his whiff of Trent, but still has no idea what he is, only that he sleeps at night and is not a witch, vampire or were. Since Jonathan smells like Trent, he thinks it has to be a spell to hide what they are.
They sneak into Trent’s office, and Rachel manages to get in the desk and snag a disk. Before they can escape, the overhead light comes on, and Trent enters the room. It’s clear he knows security has been breached (Rachel’s accident with the Takata CD), and he calls someone named Quen and tells him to loose the hounds. After a second, he cancels the order.
They hear Trent above them, sniffing, and suddenly he bends over, looks under the desk, and comes face to face with Rachel the mink. He knows it’s her and grabs her tail. When she turns and sinks her mink-teeth into his hand, he pulls her out by the tail and smacks her against the desk. She notes that his blood has a cinnamon taste. She squeaks for Jenks to escape and he manages to get out the door just as Rachel bites Trent on the thumb—he’s still holding her up by her tail. He slams her against the wall, and everything goes black.