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3.4 92
by J.N. Duncan

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She's as tough as anything haunting Chicago's streets. But to deal with an inhuman power that won't stay buried, this FBI agent needs help that comes at an immortal price. . .

Jackie Rutledge has seen her share of supernatural killers. But her latest murder case is what recurring nightmares are made of. Brutally exsanguinated human victims, vanishing-into-the-ether


She's as tough as anything haunting Chicago's streets. But to deal with an inhuman power that won't stay buried, this FBI agent needs help that comes at an immortal price. . .

Jackie Rutledge has seen her share of supernatural killers. But her latest murder case is what recurring nightmares are made of. Brutally exsanguinated human victims, vanishing-into-the-ether evidence, and a city on the edge of panic mean that she and her psychic partner, Laurel, are going to need more than just backup . . .

So Jackie is fine with any help rugged P.I. Nick Anderson can give--even if that includes the impish ghost and sexy vampire who make up his team. But Nick is hiding secrets of his own. And Jackie's investigation has plunged them both into a vengeful game reaching back centuries--and up against a malevolent force hungry for more than just victory. . .

"Bloody, delicious, twisted." --Lilith Saintcrow, New York Times bestselling author of the Jill Kismet, Hunter series

"A very impressive debut. . .the earthly and the unearthly mingle horrifyingly in this brand new twist on vampire mythology." –John Russo, author of Undead

"Duncan's deftly subtle debut creeps up on you like a ghost in the night." --Mark Henry, author of Happy Hour of the Damned

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Duncan debuts in a crowded subgenre, employing the now-requisite urban fantasy trappings of kickbutt heroine, vampires evil and redeemed, sardonic cat, and heart-of-gold sidekicks. Jackie Rutledge, an FBI agent and ugly drunk with the requisite traumatized past, has a penchant for rough sex and crude language. She also has a knack for stumbling into cases with a supernatural tinge, courtesy of her psychic partner Laurel. Nick Anderson is a 176-year-old vampire PI being stalked by a particularly twisted enemy who periodically reenacts the decades-old murders of Nick's wife and children. The two enter into an uneasy alliance that rapidly becomes personal in ways both exhilarating and horrifying. Jackie's collection of personal eccentricities does not ring especially true, making her a difficult heroine to sympathize with, but the investigative details are competently woven. It's a workmanlike effort, efficiently deploying the tropes and meeting reader expectations with a few minor twists to keep things interesting. (Apr.)

Product Details

Publication date:
Deadworld Series , #1
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 6.84(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt


By J.N. Duncan


Copyright © 2011 Jim N. Duncan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-5566-2

Chapter One

Beneath the serene, protective canopy of maple leaves, a boy reclined against the trunk, withered and bloodless, his skin two sizes too big for his depleted body. It was death in all the wrong ways.

Jackie Rutledge squinted at the chaos from the parking lot, frowning at the milling gawkers. A gaggle of reporters and cameramen huddled around their cluster of vans waiting to pounce on the nearest unwary law-enforcement officer. She absently rubbed at her throbbing temple. There should have been laws against committing crimes on Mondays.

The drifting scatter of clouds taunted her by blocking the late September sun only to laugh at her seconds later. Her sunglasses provided little relief from the pain induced from last night's bottle of tequila, and Jackie hoped that luck would bring a thunderstorm and send the crowd running. There was no luck to be found in this park however. Death had sucked it all away.

The enormous maple, its branches drooping nearly to the ground, was completely encircled with crime-scene tape. Some of the crew were walking around, combing through the grass. The local police looked to have been put in charge of crowd control.

Jackie walked over to her partner, Laurel's, car and accepted the triple-shot latte and four Tylenol. "Thanks for the wake-up. Why can't killers keep better hours?"

"Off shifts pay better," Laurel said and reached up to brush off some lingering sand from the dangling ruffle of auburn hair on Jackie's forehead. "How was the lifeguard?"

"My thighs still hurt, so I'm guessing it was good." Tequila shots blurred out everything beyond last night's walk on the lake. The guy was long gone when Laurel had pierced Jackie's skull with the seven AM wake-up. Plopping the pills into her mouth, Jackie swallowed them with the lukewarm coffee.

She took the FBI jacket offered by Laurel, who was now scanning the crowd past the pair of television vans parked at the curb of the parking lot, her blue eyes narrowed in concentration. Her voice was distant. "Wish my thighs hurt."

"So is this the same MO as the Wisconsin woman?"

Laurel did not answer. Her eyes were closed, and Jackie knew better than to keep talking. Laurel had her psychic radar on, checking for anything out of the ordinary. If this was related to the Wisconsin victim, odds were there would be something. Even with the length of time that she had been dead, there had been a "taint." For Jackie, some demented prick had drained the woman of her blood. Period.

She finished off the last of her latte and waited for Laurel. She was ready to get moving, more so to avoid the media that looked to be wandering in their direction.

"Something is off here," Laurel said, her voice barely a whisper.

Jackie cringed. Of course there was. "Not off in a 'spiked your morning coffee' sort of way, I hope?"

"There's some bourbon in the trunk." Laurel didn't smile at the humor. She was too intent on something out in the crowd.

"Great. Off to a fabulous start already," Jackie said, but Laurel was shuffling across the grass to the other side of the parking lot where the crowd had gathered. Something had tweaked that little psychic nerve of hers, and Jackie knew when to leave well enough alone. She waved. "Go find your bogeyman, Laur." Turning around, she made her way toward the overhanging tree before any media might notice she was standing by herself.

The blanket of leaves and limbs pushed and swatted at Jackie until she found herself standing in near darkness, thin shafts of light shining down on a boy seated neatly against the trunk of the tree. A couple members of the crew were already milling around in the shadows.

"That you, Jack? Glad you could join us."

Jackie's mouth creased into a frown. Pernetti. He would be the one detailing the victim. As if her headache didn't already feel like someone cranking screws down into her skull. "Don't even start with me, Pernetti. I'm not in the mood."

"Boy, did you get laid or something? You're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning."

For a moment, Jackie thought he might have actually noticed, but then common sense took over. Pernetti was not capable of noticing anything like that. "Kiss my ass. Just tell me what we've got here."

He knelt down next to the body. "Archibold Lane, age twelve. Some sicko sucked the boy dry. There's ligature marks on the wrists and ankles. Funky marks, though. It looks like zip ties. Other than the hole in the arm, there's nothing else visible on him. Scene so far is weirdly spotless."

Twelve. What was wrong with people? "Spotless? That's doubtful." These days, everyone left something to track. Unless of course you knew how to clean up after yourself, and knew how forensics worked, but even then, it was unlikely.

"Clean so far, Jack." He shrugged, pointing at marks on the boy's wrists. "Other than the marks and the hole, he's got a couple bumps and scrapes that anyone might get when they've been out and about for a couple days."

"Two? He hasn't been dead that long."

Pernetti stood back up, thrusting his hands into his pockets. "Runaway, according to the sheriff. Fled from Mom and Dad beating each other up and not seen until this morning."

She doubted very much that Mom was doing any beating up on Dad. It hit her then, a brief flash of a twelve-year-old running away from a "domestic dispute" nearly twenty years prior. Mommy certainly had not been doing any of the beating. Jackie took a deep breath. The smell of death was doing little to wash the residue of memory away. "Anything else?"

"Nope. Area still being gone over. Bowers and Prescott are out canvassing, but it's looking a lot like that Wisconsin woman we brought in a couple months back."

Jackie shrugged and pulled out a pair of latex gloves from her jacket pocket. "Maybe. Okay, move, Pernetti. I want a look." She didn't want one, really. There was almost nothing she would see here, she could tell already. The perp had been clean and careful. Even the ground around the body looked undisturbed. Still, she would end up lead on the case, and, if anything, she needed to verify Pernetti's own observations.

"Think we should track down those parents and see what they have to say. Let them know their son is dead because they can't bitch at each other like other civilized folks."

She did not bother glancing up at him. "Go away, Pernetti. You're distracting me."

Thankfully left in silence, Jackie gave Archie a quick look over and found nothing out of the ordinary. He seemed almost peaceful, if one could ignore that fact that he looked like a pasty, deflated version of his former self. The thought sent a shiver down Jackie's spine, and she decided she had seen enough for the moment. Putting her sunglasses back on, she stepped back out from under the tree to find Laurel seated on the hood of her car smoking a cigarette. That was the first sign of trouble right there. A healthy girl by nature, Jackie knew if you hit the stress button hard enough, Laurel would be reaching for that security blanket in the bottom of her purse.

Jackie knew any shot at the day getting better was vanishing with each puff of smoke.

Chapter Two

One hundred forty-four years was a long time to be a failure at something. Nick Anderson felt every last year of it as he looked over the heads of the crowd at the towering maple, wondering how long it had taken to find someone who looked like his son. The boy sitting under the tree was not an exact likeness, but the similarities were obvious. Cornelius was back, and this time Nick knew it was for keeps. The game was on for one final round, and if he didn't catch the bastard, Nick would be dead.

The circus atmosphere in the park did little to help. In the two hours since returning from his initial discovery to the park after finding the body, Nick had been talked to by every reporter and cop on the scene. There appeared to be little in the way of evidence, and Nick had not dared do anything to the body earlier. Evidence gathering these days was far too elaborate to miss his tampering with the body. The feds did not appear to have anything concrete going on. He had seen them in action enough to know, and he knew how Cornelius worked. There would be little for them to go on until things were explored a bit more. Immediate discovery was too boring for him.

A late-arriving fed caught his eye, a tough, slight-looking woman in a black leather jacket, jeans, and hiking boots. He watched her pop some pills into her mouth and wash it down with coffee while they both looked out in his direction, scanning the crowd. There was an easy comfort to the way they interacted. Partners, Nick figured. The coffee drinker donned an FBI jacket and walked toward the tree, and Nick wondered if she might be the one in charge. Not a good sign. Female law enforcement were generally harder to handle. Their bullshit meters were far more finicky. He wondered how long it might be before he was having a conversation with her. A day? Two, perhaps?

The other one came toward the crowd, and if it was not for the FBI-emblazoned jacket, Nick would never have pegged her for law enforcement. She had none of the swagger or stern confidence most portrayed at a crime scene. She looked far too soft for that, far too kind around the eyes.

It was the eyes that grabbed Nick's attention though. She scanned the crowd, but her gaze was unfocused, miles away. He watched her, curious about what she could be looking for until she got within about ten feet of his spot. Those distant and vacant blue eyes came abruptly into sharp focus, and what little color she had slowly evaporated from her face. The cold, probing fingers of psychic energy pushed around him then, and Nick swallowed the bile that rose in his throat.

Christ! A medium.

He gave off a definite and profound sense of death, or so his assistant Cynthia claimed. She was a powerful medium in her own right and, after meeting fifteen years before, had told him he felt like a walking cemetery. Not the most endearing sentiment, but apparently true. Nick had hired her on the spot. She had taught him how to know when a psychic was looking around for the dead, opening themselves up to the spirit world. It was a very distinct feeling, and now here he was, face-to-face with one who worked for the FBI who was standing five feet away from him at a crime scene he would undoubtedly be tied to sooner, if not later.

She wobbled on her feet, pale as the death she must have been sensing. Nick could see she did not suspect him in the slightest, but she felt him, and it scared the shit out of her. It would have been a good time to casually shift off into the crowd.

"Miss? Are you okay? You look a bit pale." The gesture of goodwill was out of his mouth before he could stop it.

"No, no. I'm fine, thanks. Just lost in thought," she said, managing a friendly smile. "How are you?"

She had a sense of wholeness about her that Nick found striking. It had his mind conjuring up an image a century and a half old, sweet and bitter at the same time. His comforting smile faded. "Disappointed I have to see things like this. You sure you're all right? I thought you might pass out there for a second."

The scared look in her eyes began to dissipate, replaced with wariness. "Fine. Really. I imagine you've been asked, but have you seen anything unusual around here today?"

Nick caught the subtle inflection, but years of listening to such questions had honed his response down to nothing. "No, I haven't. I was just walking through the park and stopped to see what all the fuss was about, and I think I've seen enough. I'm not fond of the circus folks make of these things."

"No," she said. "Neither am I, but we'll catch him. Don't you worry."

Nick gave her a faint smile and nod before backing away and heading slowly out of the crowd. He waited until she continued her search in another direction. It was time to leave. A medium was going to be hard to deal with, and any snooping around would have to be very quiet. The time had come to inform everyone else. Shelby would be pissed he had failed to inform her earlier. Reggie would be eager for action, but then he was always ready. The dead were good that way. Poor Cynthia had not heard any of this story.

He picked up the pace once he reached the edge of the park, and Nick could feel the creeping pangs of hunger. It was time for some blood.

Chapter Three

Laurel did not look at Jackie when Jackie stopped a few feet in front of her. She sat on the hood of the car, feet on the bumper, her elbows propped on her knees. The cigarette between her fingers glowed for a brief moment in agitation before leaving her mouth.

Jackie sighed loudly and crossed her arms over her chest. "Okay, what gives?"

She finally flicked her gaze upward. "There's something here."

Jackie closed her eyes. Great. First a boy drained of blood and now something supernatural. She stepped up and sat down on the hood next to Laurel. "Give me one." She didn't really want a cigarette. Six months without and she had kicked the habit yet again, but it was one of those camaraderie things. "So what the hell is it?"

"Hush," Laurel said, putting a finger to her lips. "He's close and might hear you."

Whatever it was, it was dead. Being quiet didn't much matter for Jackie. Still, Laurel actually looked frightened, and that was enough to be worried about. The spooky stuff rarely did that, so when it did you paid attention. "Sorry. You want some pics of the area?" When she nodded, Jackie waved Denny King over and had him go run off a gigabyte's worth of photos in the direction Laurel had pointed. While he was doing that, Jackie grabbed her by the arm and pulled her off the car.

"Come on. Come get a look at our boy." It was best to get her mind off whatever it was that had scared her. It was not the first time supernatural shit had hit the fan, and much like the normal shit in life, Jackie knew you had to just wipe it off and keep walking. She prayed to herself that whatever was out there stayed away from the case.

Pernetti had thankfully vacated the scene when they stepped up to Archie. It was difficult to get the deflated-balloon image out of Jackie's head. Someone had just drained the life right out of him. What sort of person were they dealing with here? The familiar knot of self-righteous anger began to burn in her gut. This was a fucked-up guy they were after. The sort that needed a swift and permanent removal from this world.

"What an awful thing to do to someone, and a child at that," Laurel said, squatting down next to Jackie beside the body. "They finished with him?"

She nodded. "Yeah, think so. Go ahead."

Laurel reached out and laid her fingertips on the boy's hand. A moment later, she jerked back. "Shit. It's here, too."

"It?" Jackie stood, half expecting the boy to sit up from the tree. "What it?"

"The ... spirit or whatever it was. Its residue is on the boy." She rocked for a moment on the balls of her feet and then tentatively touched Archie again, lingering longer this time. The firm set of her mouth turned into a frown.

Jackie stared down at her. "You want to tell me what's going on?" Laurel pulled back and gave her an "excuse me" look. "Sorry. I hate when your freaky ghost shit gets involved in a case. So are you saying the thing out there had something to do with Archie's death?"

She shook her head. "No, I don't think so. I don't even think it's the same spirit. This one is ... bad news, Jackie. Really bad."

The knot in Jackie's stomach dissolved into something else. Trepidation. "And the one out there was nice in comparison to this?"

"Different." She got to her feet, leaning lightly against Jackie's arm. The effort had obviously drained her. "Whatever this is, it isn't here anymore. The thing out there ..." Laurel dug her fingers into Jackie's arm for support and perhaps a little courage. "Goddess help me, Jackie. It was so strong. I felt like I'd opened a door to the other side."

"But you didn't see anything?"

"No. I barely kept from passing out. This sweetie of a guy noticed and snapped me out of it."

Jackie stepped back, staring at her partner. "Just happened to notice you were in some psychic trance communing with the dead?"

She gave Jackie a dirty look before glancing over her shoulder. Jackie turned and saw the local sheriff standing behind them.


Excerpted from Deadworld by J.N. Duncan Copyright © 2011 by Jim N. Duncan. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Deadworld 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
barb1wired More than 1 year ago
Having an unlikeable b*tch for the lead character doesn't bode well for this series. For most of the book I did not like Jackie. No real person could put up with a someone like her. She's mean, rude, and thoughtless. She drinks too much, has random hook-ups, and punches out a boorish co-worker because he pissed her off. A FBI agent who did what Jackie does would be FIRED. By the end, however, I had hopes that future stories would soften her character enough that I could actually like her. That being said, it was an interesting premise. Someone is killing and draining the blood of people in Chicago. FBI agent Jackie Rutledge and her partner, Laurel (a psychic) are brought in to investigate. This brings them in contact with a private investigator, the sexy Nick Anderson, and his team (a ghost and a vampire). Laurel and Shelby are extremely likeable characters. Nick could have used more development. I never got a really good sense of his character. It's possible that future stories will be better, but I'm not sure I want to spend any more time with Jackie:(
Mandi227 More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book about a month ago. I fought to get through the first 132 pages and then I gave up and started reading something else. I still haven't gone back to reading the book. Enough said.
AVoraciousReadr More than 1 year ago
Decent start to a new series Jackie Rutledge is a Chicago FBI agent. Laurel, her partner of five years, is a psychic. Like any other FBI agent they hunt down and put away bad guys. However, whenever something supernatural is involved then Jackie and Laurel are the team to lead the way. When a twelve-yr-old boy is found not just murdered, but drained of blood Laurel says that something evil is going on. Evil and pertaining to Deadworld. Their investigation leads them to a private investigator named Nick Anderson. Nick and his partner Shelby Fontaine know more than what they’re telling Jackie and she intends to get to the bottom of it. But when she finds out the truth will she believe it or dismiss it? And will she survive the coming battle between Nick and the killer? As a first book in a new series this isn’t a bad start. Well-written with a fairly fast plot, well-developed characters and an interesting world it keeps the reader engaged to the end. I will say I’m not much of fan of Jackie. Some of her actions are annoying and her personality needs work. I do appreciate that she is a flawed heroine, but she’s really hard to like in this first book. She’s not so bad that I don’t want to continue with the series though and I’m looking forward to reading Book 2, The Vengeful Dead.  *Many thanks to Kensington for providing me with a review copy. Please see disclaimer page on my blog.
kwhithed More than 1 year ago
Contrary to another review, Deadworld, is to be missed! I wanted to like the book and the characters. But in addition to the amateurish writing, I found the characters uninteresting, tedious, and unsympathetic. The one thing the main character, Jackie, excels at is self hatred. If it was just herself she was punishing, it would be one thing. But the author has chosen to demonstrate the depth of Jackie's feelings by having her be abusive to her pet cat, Bickerstaff. I'm an animal lover and don't think it's ever acceptable to trivialize the mistreatment of animals. There are plenty of fantastic fantasy/sci-fi authors out there. Focus on them and forget about this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I tried hard to get into this book, but it was just too slow moving. I was bored by page 35 and it didnt get any better. The main female character was not likeable and far too much cursing. Im no prude but it seemed the author was using it to add flavor to the plot line. It needed some oomph but that didnt do it. I didnt even finish the book and thats a rarety for me. Mad Cricket
NikkiAz More than 1 year ago
Welcome to Chicago. But be aware, this isn't the modern day Chicago you may know. Have you known Chicago to be tormented by supernatural beings? Is it an every day thing when vampires, psychics and more are part of the FBI, police, and more? In J. N. Duncan's Deadworld, yes, that is the norm. The newest case for agent Jackie Rutlidge and partner Laurel is not the every day norm, either. The killings are coming from an evil, angry ghost. And to help them out is Nick Anderson. Deadworld is a great modern urban fantasy start to what looks like a new series. The writing is fresh, filled with witty humor, and some dark ghostly situations that kept me engaged and hooked. Urban fantasy is a hot market right now and I feel that Deadworld fits in well, but stands out on it's own, too. Like sassy heroines that are great leaders? Deadworld is a book you ma enjoy.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Someone drained the blood of a woman in Wisconsin. Now, an unknown predator drains the blood of twelve years old Archibald Lane, leaving a corpse with bites and a few bruises in a Chicago park. FBI agent Jackie Rutledge leads the investigation in which her psychic partner Laurel sense something paranormal at the murder scene. Law enforcement first focuses on private investigator Nick "Sheriff" Anderson as the predator, but Jackie quickly realizes he is innocent. Instead he offers to assist her and Laurel on the bizarre case in which he and his team add to the paranormal peculiarities. Soon the inquiry leads back to over a century ago. Because of the paranormal in Chicago, there is an obvious nod to early Dresden, but the respective teammates of Jackie and Nick make for a much different fresh urban fantasy spin. The supernatural investigative story line is fast-paced and contains a strong twist in midstream. The cast is solid as the lead pair and the secondary players are fully developed though more of the highlight film of Nick's 180 years of existence would have been helpful. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the brisk tour of J.N. Duncan's Deadworld. Harriet Klausner
SleepDreamWrite 19 days ago
I wasn't sure I was going to like this one. At first Jackie the MC, I kind of didn't like. But the story and MC gets better later on. I did like Laurel, Nick, Shelby, etc. This was a good start and glad I at least gave the book a chance and kept going. Hoping the other books in the series are good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awful, to many nicknames and to much sarcastic attempts at humor, and I only got through the first chapter before I had to stop. I can't recommend this book to anyone.
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ElizabethT More than 1 year ago
This was a very enjoyable read. Jack is the tough as nails, butt kicking cop. She has had a hard life and it only gets harder in this book. This book was captivating and I look forward to reading the next one. 
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BluSqrrl More than 1 year ago
I liked it. The book gripped me within the first few pages and has held my attention since. It may not be as witty as Jim Butcher or as sexy as Lynsay Sands, but it is a first novel, and still developing the characters. I will certainly read the next to see where the series goes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quite a page turner...cannot wait to read the rest of the Deadwood series
CLAMITY-JANE More than 1 year ago
I really liked it. It isn't like what J.R. Ward writes, but it is a very good vampire book. Especially if you like to read vampire books, so please get the book. Besides the E-BOOK is FREE, so what do you have to lose, except some time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has all the things I look for in a book - interesting characters, fast moving, well connected. It was the kind of book I hate to set down. Finished this one and ordered the next book . . .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has it all - vampires, ghosts, murder, mystery, and a little physco stuff to boot. I enjoyed the book but you have to love the strange to enjoy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It has you thinking outside the boxed normal vamp story.which is refreshing love the brashness but intelligence of jack..pleasently looking for the next in the series..ty for once something offkilter but thrilling also.