In a fit of sugar-induced generosity, I received both books in the Jesse Sullivan series: the premiere Dying for a Living, and it’s soon-to-be-released follow-up Dying by the Hour, both written by the adorably feisty Kory M. Shrum. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I was in for something supernatural, but I purposely hadn’t read any blurbs. I was jumping in blind.
A few pages in, I realized a couple things:
1) I better pick my jaw up off the floor.
2) This wasn’t going to be like anything I’d read before.
I started with Dying for a Living (duh).
Here’s the world we’re living in, folks: Necronites–sometimes derogatorily called ‘zombies’–are becoming more and more common. Afflicted with a disorder that won’t let them die, Necronites have adapted a smart business model: they’ll die for you. A federally-regulated bureau will use a psychic to predict the day of your death, assign you a death-replacement agent to monitor you, and then when the time comes, they’ll take your place when proverbial Death comes a-knockin’ and the universe is none the wiser.
Enter Jesse Sullivan, your snarky neighborhood protagonist and surprisingly-popular death-replacement agent. She’s smart, funny, sexy, harboring a dark past, and wears mismatched sneakers. Toss in a refreshing love triangle between her aptly-named personal assistant and landlord–Ally or Lane, which road should she choose?–and you have the makings of a killer series. The Afterlife and Times of a Death-Replacement Agent? I’d read it.
But that would’ve been too easy for Kory M. Shrum.
Instead, we meet Jesse Sullivan on the eve of her first death gone wrong. I mean really wrong. One minute she’s monitoring her latest client, the next minute she’s got a sobbing prostitute on top of her, slitting her throat–and, as you can guess, that’s the one death a Necronite can’t come back from.
From there, the already intriguing storyline shifts into high gear. An endless, twisty highway of crime, conspiracy, murder, betrayal, insanity, and doubt finds Jesse on the run from just about everyone, ranging from the Church to her employer, the FBRD.
This isn’t just a spin on the genre, it’s a cyclone, coming to a head in a scenario masterminded to scare a person that doesn’t even fear death.
In a world where sappy, dystopian, supernatural “thrillers” with flakey female leads are a dime a dozen, Dying for a Living stands out as an honest breath of fresh air. Exhausted with the status quo in this genre? This book will be a dose of adrenaline right to your heart.
Of course, I then read Dying by the Hour. Total gamechanger.
How to I put this lightly? Umm…holy shit!
Dying by the Hour is everything a great sequel should be: darker, thought-provoking, and ever expanding the characters and world to which we’ve been introduced. And, much like her protagonist, Shrum pulls no punches.
We catch up with Jesse a year later, trying to put the troubling events of the first novel behind her. She’s still in the same line of work, still surrounded by the same friends she actually trusts, but in a lot of ways, she’s still searching for answers.
What happened to Caldwell?
Who is he, and what does he really want?
And why is Jesse’s memory so fuzzy?
Little does she know she’s on a collision course with those answers and more. Maybe too many more, as she goes deeper into the dark side of death-replacement, the Unified Church, and her own psyche.
But Jesse isn’t the only one telling the tale here. Dying by the Hour gives fans another narrator: Jesse’s best friend/personal assistant/sometimes love interest Ally gets her turn at telling her half of the story. If you read the first book, you know Ally is an instant staple. Beautiful, intelligent, and charming, Ally is the perfect yin to Jesse’s yang. Whereas Jesse is all spitfire shock, Ally is thoughtful and wildly resourceful. From page one of the first book, you’re drawn to the very likeable Ally, so getting her perspective this time around is a real treat for fans. But it’s more than just a writing gimmick–Ally has secrets of her own she’s been keeping from Jesse.
Dying by the Hour also gives the series a shot of Vitamin P, as in present tense. Not only does this style lend itself to the detective noir thing the first book had going on, but it also takes away the safety net of knowing what’s going to happen to the characters. Every step, every corner, every surprise is experienced in real time by both reader and character alike.
This is especially potent when Jesse goes missing…
With new characters, new answers, new questions, and even some new abilities, Dying by the Hour does not do wrong by its predecessor. Everything you liked about Dying for a Living is back and taken to the next level. The stakes are higher, the action is more intense…and the sex scenes are just a little sexier.