Jennifer Estep‘s Ashland, Tennessee, is like many corrupt cities/towns/countries. “Ashland might have a working police force and government, but the city was really run by one woman. Mab Monroe.” Monroe is your typical mobster. She has a respectable front powered by charity, fund-raising and activities appearing to give back to the community. Behind that façade, bribes and intimidation are favorite tools but she does not hesitate to stoop to kidnappings and murder if necessary. If you happen to be a law-abiding police officer, district attorney or judge, you are doomed one way or another.
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Prince Hamlet says to his mother Queen Gertrude:
“Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed,
Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty—”
Into such a bed of corruption, Estep places Spider (Gin Snow), assassin, main character and story-teller. Gin is known as Gin Blanco, part-time cook and waitress at the Pork Pit. She regularly takes classes at Ashland Community College – the eternal student. Pork Pit is owned by Fletcher (foster-father, ex-assassin and handler/go-between). Gin loves and trusts both Fletcher and Finnegan/Finn (foster-brother and bankier). As Spider’s Bite unfolds, we discover how Gin came to be in Fletcher’s household.
We first meet Spider in Ashland Asylum. She is there to kill one of the therapists. As an introduction, this assignment serves to introduce us to Gin, her profession, the types of inhabitants in Ashland and what kinds of magic exist. Ashland is a place of magic, vampires, giants, dwarves and humans. Gin is human and a stone- and ice-elemental. The other two main forms of magic are fire- and air-magic. Most elementals have the use of one magic. If they have two, one of them is normally a minor one. Ashland’s magic is not without its dangers, addiction being one of them. Insanity another. Fletcher and Finn are humans and without magic. Early on in the story, Gin takes on an assignment that has devastating effects on her relationship with Fletcher and Finn and has the potential of bringing her within reach of Mab.
Her assignment certainly brings her within reach of Detective Donovan Caine. Caine is one of the few honest public service-people in Ashland. Of course, he and Gin are bound to clash and end in the inevitable should/should not have sex situation. Fortunately, Estep chooses to portray Gin as the instigator and Caine as the doubting, shameful one. It would be strange if they had the usual roles in paranormal literature due to Caine being the upright police officer that he is. Happily, this romance bit did not take up too much of the story. Most of their interaction was through their investigation.
Finn, Gin’s foster-brother, is something worse than an assassin (as Gin puts it). He is a bankier and Gin’s go-to person in Spider’s Bite. It would be a safe bet to say that Finn and Gin are best friends. Their friendship is vital to the success of the investigation. When Caine becomes involved he and Finn go through the usual (is it like this all over the world?) who’s-the-manlier-man procedure. Thankfully, again, Estep does not force us to endure yet another threesome (god, I hate those). No mushy stuff and no threesome. What is the world coming to?
I had fun reading Spider’s Bite. There was plenty of action. Some violence and sex. Definitely recommended.