Biting the Bullet by Jennifer Rardin

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Biting the Bullet (Jaz Parks) by Jennifer Rardin

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Category: Horror
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A Middle Eastern setting does not distinguish this horror thriller as much as it might, but the series is back on track with a more successful third volume. The nasties, plotting and whole spirit of the book lend themselves to a Bookbag recommendation – especially to fans of the vampire-influenced thriller series.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 336 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841496405

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Things aren’t getting better for Jaz Parks, and her gang of undead, near-dead and just plain odd hunter-killers. The uberbaddy prevalent throughout the series seems to have got a new dogsbody, The Wizard – one who is able to bring the reavers – soul-eating nasties – back to life as zombie versions that are even harder to kill. A trip to hell (or a dream resembling that) has brought suggestions from Mum that things aren’t going to be getting better, or easier, and tells of jobs unfinished.

And someone has decided to combine her CIA-arranged band of ghoul-dispatchers with her twin brother’s own Marines-style combatants. Cue more family problems for Jaz, as her pride and ego, and superior knowledge of what goes where when it comes to killing the undead, battle it out, her will-she-won’t-she relationship with the dishy vampire Vayl carries on being at a knifepoint, and the body count just builds and builds amidst some of the strongest action scenes in the series.

Thankfully the second volume, which featured undercover work in a Chinese circus, a dragon-themed military weapon, and a downturn in the style, witticisms and enthusiasm had by both the writer and this reader, seems to have been just a blip.

Here the thriller element is rather more successful – the mission is tempered with doubt and suspicion and other complexities all the way, for reasons I shouldn’t go into. Similarly, the relationship side of things, while hitting some bum notes, is a lot improved – it’s not only the brother/sister elements that can rankle with Jaz and make her distracted.

I felt the second book opened up too much, and some might say this volume goes too far, but I felt on safer ground here. The relocation to Iran seems to allow for a more diverse population of critters, and while they may seem a bit generic, or just plain made-up when surely that region has nasties of its own for Jennifer Rardin to appropriate and employ, they seemed to aid the tale and not dilute the proceedings. The mystical elements may be too many for some, but while I have to skim over many bits of the life-line type of thing I found the population of monsters etc entertaining.

Therefore the series is back in the realm of the commendable – the whole genre-splitting attitude – the wise-cracking female narrator with all the mental asides; the evil side of the world, giving a greater sense of threat to our heroes the first sequel also lacked; and what is on whole standard if enjoyable thriller features – all combining in a very satisfactory way. It is acceptably self-contained, as I think the references to the second book are suitably snappy and don’t leave anything crucial out. So one can happily jump from the first book to this, leaving the relative mediocrity of the middle one for hardier fans.

And afterwards, of course, sample the opening pages of the fourth, flagged as forthcoming here. If anybody ever finds these things valuable…

I’d like to thank Orbit for sending a copy to the Bookbag to review, and I’ll show I’m grateful – I’ll mention their The Devil's Right Hand – a similar book at a similar depth into the series, and also Half the Blood of Brooklyn as being a bigger brother – a book more for those with the stomach for darker horror and much less sprightliness and comedy. You might like to have a look at The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth, although we did have our reservations

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