Don't Kill the Messenger
by Eileen Rendahl
(Berkley, $15.00, R)  ISBN 978-0-425-23256-9 
Melina Markowitz is a very busy woman. Not only is she working two jobs to make ends meets, but has another secret one where she doesn't get paid at all. Melina is known in the supernatural world as a messenger. Those creatures of myth and legend, such as vampires, werewolves and even imps, do exist because they expect Melina to deliver packages and other messages to one another. Melina has no choice because if she ignores their call horrible things will happen to her and she'll get very sick. If only her mother had paid closer attention to her when she was three years old. Melina fell in the family’s pool and almost died, and because of that near-death experience, she has developed this strange sixth sense and is one of the few in Sacramento, California available for the job.

As Melina finishes the night shift at her second job at the Sacramento City Hospital, a vampire ER doctor, Alexander Bledsoe, gives her a package to deliver to the head of the local vampire governing board. Melina tries to keep to herself when it comes to the sexy undead doctor, because he could gnaw on one of her arteries if he so chooses. She finds it odd that he wants her to deliver something to one of his own, but never the less she does what she's told. Before she can drop off the package, ninjas attack her in broad daylight. Melina should be able to hold her own against them because she's very skilled in martial arts and has been since she was seven years old.  She even works at the River City Karate and Judo center with another messenger who was able to retire. Melina is given quite a beating by these ninjas and they steal the package.

She finds out the ninjas are responsible for terrorizing the city, especially the gangs, by controlling Chinese vampires called kiang shi that tear gang members limb from limb and eat their flesh. Melina witnesses this and places an anonymous call to the police. But because her undercover skills are very lacking, she is confronted by Officer Ted Goodnight, who Melina nicknames Surfer Cop because of his good looks. Goodnight is onto Melina and she feels he's watching her every move, although he also seems interested in her in other ways. Dr. Bledsoe doesn't like Melina having a possible romance with Goodnight because she could let it slip about his people, among the other creatures she interacts with. There is also maybe a bit of jealousy on his end.

Melina is stubborn and refuses to listen to anyone, even when she's given a bloody calling card at the hospital as a warning. She continues to investigate in such places as a Taoist temple in Old Sacramento where the vampires are kept in an old crypt, controlled by a man, with a ring of bell, who can cause more bloodshed and destruction the likes of Sacramento has never seen. And when a close friend of Melina ends up dead because of her meddling, she turns to Goodnight and Bledsoe to help her stop these criminals before more innocent people die.

Don't Kill the Messenger should have been an original, thrilling urban fantasy, but what I read instead was pretty much a re-hash of every urban fantasy I've read over the past few years. Eileen Rendahl does try something different, especially with the heroine Melina, but it didn't work because of her overall lack of a role as a messenger, which is conveniently pushed to the side because of the way Melina stumbles onto the underworld of Chinese vampires. She really does some “too stupid to live” moves and I really couldn't get a handle on her motivation.  Her thoughts were scattered all over the place. She comes across as more of an airhead; one minute she's focused on something important, and then the next something very silly and immature that doesn't have anything to do with the overall story.

Melina's romance with Ted Goodnight had promise, as well as the idea of a possible love triangle including the vampire doctor Bledsoe. But because Melina is so lacking as a character, I couldn’t see why these two men would even be interested in her. Also the sex scenes seem tacked on, and the constant reasons why Melina is such a loner and how she's difficult to get along with grated on my nerves.

The gruesome scenes with the zombie-like Chinese vampires didn't shock in any way. At times I felt that the author was trying too hard with her writing perhaps because she knew Don't Kill the Messenger had to be different in order to keep the reader interested.

Because Don't Kill the Messenger didn't hold my attention, I’m afraid I won't be reading the second book in this series. Melina was just too flighty with her thoughts and actions, along with her overall lack of intelligence. This one is a pass. 

--Catherine Anne

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