Ciara Griffin spent most of her life as a con artist, helping herself to other peoples’ money, until her work started to eat away at her conscience. After one last big score, she retired from that life, and went back to school. Now, as she tries to lead a life on the straight and narrow, she applies for an intership at WVMP, a quirky little radio station whose late-night DJs each specialize in a different musical era: ’40s blues, ’60s rock, ’80s goth and ’00s grunge. Ciara’s certainly dubious about her long-term prospects in the mkarketing department of the station, especially once she’s met the DJs in question. A stranger, flakier, more unlikely bunch of coworkers she could never have imagined. Especially once she’s forcibly introduced to the true nature of WVMP: it’s essentially a work-study program for vampires, keeping them from losing their connection to the world around them. But a job’s a job, and Ciara rises to the challenge after some initial doubts. And when she learns that the station’s in danger of being sold, which would put her new friends (can a human -be- friends with vampires?) at risk, she convinces them to adopt a bold new format, outting them as vampires to the world (and passing it all off as an elaborate gimmick…)
Unfortunately, there are some older, more traditional vampires who object, most strenuously, to this breach in tradition and potential unwanted publicity, just as there are some humans willing to sharpen their stakes ‘just in case’ and before Ciara knows it, she’s up to her neck in a vampiric power struggle, and things definitely aren’t helped by her growing attraction to her grunge-rock DJ coworker, Shane, who wants to convince her that vampires and humans can be -more- than friends. To save the station and her own skin, Ciara’s going to have to call upon every ounce of con artist in her soul, and pull off one hell of a grift. Danny Ocean’s got nothing on this girl.
Wicked Game is clever, funny, creative, and way too much fun. Jeri Smith-Ready plays with a concept I always thought would work well with vampires, setting them up as nighttime radio DJs whose familiarity with the material comes from actual experience, and she does it well, throwing in a nice mixture of musical styles and character personalities. Honestly, this is a book I wish I’d written, so I’m glad someone went ahead and did it. Smith-Ready’s treatment of vampires is slightly skewed from the average depiction; in her world, vampires need to find a balance between the time period in which they were alive, and the modern era, lest they become disconnected and unable to function. Moreover, they’re essentially locked in to their “Life Time,” unable to easily change or grow or learn new things as time marches on without them. This imbues this particular breed of vampire with a unique and satisfying vulnerability, which makes for some interesting complications in their society. She also plays with the nature of codependency between vampires and humans, showing various ways in which they each get what they want, be it sex, money, protection, or dinner (you guess which is which…) Maybe it’s not -all- entirely original, since there’s only so much variation possible, but it’s explored nicely here.
Ciara’s a fun character in her own right, a natural con artist who’s always looking for that extra angle to exploit, and that back door to escape through. She’s pragmatic, and naturally skeptical at first when things get weird, reacting like any normal person would, but when the chips are down, she really shines. In fact, it’s safe to say she’s got some massive reserves of confidence to draw upon, and an amazing amount of chutzpah, given some of the plans she comes up with. It’ll be interesting to see what she does next, after what she pulls off in this book.
Wicked Game is a sure-fire winner in my opinion, and the sequel will be one of my must-reads.