This Case Is Gonna Kill Me
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This Case Is Gonna Kill Me

4.6 20
by Phillipa Bornikova

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What happens when The Firm meets Anita Blake? You get the Halls of Power—our modern world, but twisted. Law, finance, the military, and politics are under the sway of long-lived vampires, werewolves, and the elven Alfar. Humans make the best of rule by "the Spooks," and contend among themselves to affiliate with the powers-that-be, in order to avoid


What happens when The Firm meets Anita Blake? You get the Halls of Power—our modern world, but twisted. Law, finance, the military, and politics are under the sway of long-lived vampires, werewolves, and the elven Alfar. Humans make the best of rule by "the Spooks," and contend among themselves to affiliate with the powers-that-be, in order to avoid becoming their prey. Very loyal humans are rewarded with power over other women and men. Very lucky humans are selected to join the vampires, werewolves, and elves—or, on occasion, to live at the Seelie Court.

Linnet Ellery is the offspring of an affluent Connecticut family dating back to Colonial times. Fresh out of law school, she's beginning her career in a powerful New York "white fang" law firm. She has high hopes of eventually making partner.

But strange things keep happening to her. In a workplace where some humans will eventually achieve immense power and centuries of extra lifespan, office politics can be vicious beyond belief. After some initial missteps, she finds herself sidelined and assigned to unpromising cases. Then, for no reason she can see, she becomes the target of repeated, apparently random violent attacks, escaping injury each time through increasingly improbable circumstances. However, there's apparently more to Linnet Ellery than a little old-money human privilege. More than even she knows. And as she comes to understand this, she's going to shake up the system like you wouldn't believe….

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bornikova (a pen name for SF author Melinda Snodgrass) kicks off an urban fantasy series that’s less about hunting monsters and more about producing billable hours on their behalf. Freshly minted Yale Law grad Linnet Ellery gets a job at a law firm run by vampires. That’s the rule, not the exception, in this world, where “spooks” have established themselves at the top of human society. The case Linnet’s working on gets ugly when a murderous werewolf takes a personal interest in it. To make matters worse, office politics have her firmly on the outs, and the handsome on-staff Álfar (elf) PI, John O’Shea, is entirely too distracting. Though some of the plucky underdog moments feel forced and the plot is skimpy, Linnet’s modus operandi—using the law instead of magical weapons against supernatural peril—is a refreshing change of pace. After a slow start, the clever, active protagonist makes this a lively and enjoyable read. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Fostered by one of the influential vampire families who, along with other supernaturals, control world governments, finance, and the military, Linnet Ellery is a rising star in a prestigious vampire-run law firm. Despite the male-dominated hierarchy, Linnet seems headed for success and, possibly, admission into the elite world of the immortals—until she finds herself apparently demoted, assigned to marginal cases. When she becomes the victim of random attacks, each time barely escaping serious harm, she realizes that she has attracted the attention of powerful enemies as well as powerful friends. Bornikova presents a world in which lucky humans who cooperate with the supernatural-run "system" can rise to high positions. Her characters, human and supernatural alike, possess complexity and depth, and her heroine is tough and immediately likable. VERDICT Strong storytelling, appealing characters, and an intriguing setting make this urban fantasy series opener likely to have great appeal to the genre's many fans.
Kirkus Reviews
A New York lady lawyer battles sexism and arrogance in a world ruled--gently, invisibly, but insistently--by vampires, werewolves and elves, who collectively emerged from the shadows less than half a century ago. Linnet Ellery, the daughter of an old-money Colonial family and fresh out of law school, finds a job at a powerful New York "White-Fang" law firm--all the partners are vampires, along with most of the senior associates. Despite her credentials, she only got the job thanks to her connections with a high-ranking vampire family. Office politics, Linnet finds, are exceptionally vicious in a world where humans can succeed only by becoming allies or slaves of the powerful near-immortals. Her first assignment seems to be a hopeless case, a wretched affair that's been dragging on for years and involves the disputed inheritance of a billion-dollar security firm currently owned by werewolves. And, ominously, the first words uttered by Chip Westin, the well-meaning lawyer who's been struggling ineffectually with the case single-handedly, are those of the title. Then one evening, when she's working late with Chip, a werewolf shows up and kills Chip; only by a series of apparent lucky breaks does Linnet survive and kill the brute. Evidently, her diligent research has turned up something that the werewolf parties to the case would rather not have revealed. And there are other venues in which Linnet uses her brains and subtlety to achieve victory. Is she just fortunate--or extremely talented in ways she doesn't herself fully understand? A refreshing new take on an old idea, with a strong, intelligent and independent protagonist: a highly promising debut.
From the Publisher

“Phillipa is a great writer and she has the inside scoop on the world she's writing about. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.” —Carrie Vaughn, bestselling author of the Kitty Norville series

“[Bornikova's] characters, human and supernatural alike, possess complexity and depth, and her heroine is tough and immediately likable. Strong storytelling, appealing characters, and an intriguing setting make this urban fantasy series opener likely to have great appeal to the genre's many fans.” —Library Journal (Starred Review; Debut of the Month for August 2012)

“John Grisham meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Bornikova writes like a real pro, and This Case is Gonna Kill Me is a fast, fun, furious read. I can't wait for the next one.” —MLN Hanover, author of The Black Sun's Daughter

“Linnet's modus operandi--using the law instead of magical weapons against supernatural peril--is a refreshing change of pace. . . . The clever, active protagonist makes this a lively and enjoyable read.” —Publishers Weekly

“Phillipa Bornikova is perhaps not the first person to compare attorneys to vampires, but her exciting debut, This Case is Gonna Kill Me, is a fresh take on both urban fantasy and the classic legal thriller. Linnet Ellery is a smart heroine who tackles the cutthroat world of vampire law with both wit and bravery. An intelligent, gripping debut!” —Jaye Wells, author of the Sabina Kane series

“A refreshing new take on an old idea, with a strong, intelligent and independent protagonist: a highly promising debut.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Linnet Ellery Series, #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.48(w) x 8.32(h) x 0.80(d)

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Read an Excerpt

This Case is Gonna Kill Me

By Phillipa Bornikova

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2012 Melinda Snodgrass
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7791-3


"This case is gonna kill me."

I stared down at Chip Westin and tried to think of an appropriate response. Actually, I would have been happy with any response, but nothing came to mind. This was my immediate boss, and these were the first private words he said to me after McGillary, one of the senior partners at Ishmael, McGillary and Gold, had introduced us.

What does that mean? I thought miserably.

Westin looked to be in his early fifties, balding, wearing an expensive suit that had probably looked good when he was thirty pounds lighter. His complexion was pasty, but he wasn't a vampire. His cluttered office's one window was blocked by a stack of books and files, and I suspected he didn't get out much. His jowls looked like they were melting toward his collar, but this seemed to be caused less by gravity than by bone-grinding weariness and frustration.

Thus far my first day at Ishmael, McGillary and Gold, one of the premier White-Fang law firms, had consisted of signing my insurance and pension papers, designating who would receive said pension should I die while still employed by the firm, being shown my small cubbyhole of an office, and being introduced to Westin. "You'll be helping with his cases," McGillary had said as he led me toward Westin's office. Then he'd amended that, adding in a peculiar tone of voice, "Well, one in particular." I could only assume Westin's prediction of imminent death was related to that case.

"Okay. Maybe you should tell me about it," I said. I would have liked to sit down, but there was no available surface that wasn't covered with papers, books, and files.

"It's a probate case. Back in sixty-eight, Captain Henry Abercrombie was serving in Vietnam when a werewolf went rogue and bit him. That was just after the spooks went public, and the military had to admit how many hounds were actually serving in the armed forces."

I blanched a bit at the pejorative term but let it pass. After all, I'd just met the man. Westin continued.

"Anyway, he had a wife and three kids back in Newport News, and shortly after he came home on medical leave he separated from his wife, Marlene. He didn't divorce her because of the kids, and he kept helping with expenses, but he never lived with them again. Then three years later, he left the marines and founded a company, Securitech."

I choked. Securitech was the largest private military force in the world, worth close to a billion dollars. They had serious clout. The last time Securitech had been in the news was when they'd received a thirty-million-dollar, no-bid contract from the DOD. A crusading senator from Minnesota had tried to reopen the negotiations, but the investigation was closed down by the White House and the Justice Department, and the senator abruptly resigned from Congress, stating the ever-popular need to spend more time with his family.

Westin continued. "In 1980, Abercrombie decided to sire a werewolf heir, and he picked his second in command, Daniel Deegan. At this point the kids were grown up, so Abercrombie divorced Marlene. Then seventeen years ago Abercrombie was killed in a car wreck in Somalia. His human ex-wife, Marlene, and the kids — though they're not really kids any longer, they're in their fifties — retained us to challenge the will that left the company to Deegan.

"In the beginning we raised the issue of the wording about progeny in the will. The lawyer who drafted the will for Abercrombie threw the word natural in front of progeny. We wanted to argue that sex resulting in pregnancy and birth is more 'natural'" — he made quote marks with his fingers — "than biting somebody."

A Supreme Court decision came floating to the front of my mind. Geisler had established that progeny could mean the werewolf or vampire the testator had sired. In fact, the court had contended, that relationship was closer than the relationship with children produced by sex and birth, because the act of Making showed such a high level of intent.

"But Geisler —"

Mr. Westin nodded. "Yeah, kicked us right in the nuts. Sometimes I wonder if there's a secret spook on the high court."

There it was again — the pejorative term for vampires, werewolves, and Álfar being used by a lawyer working at a White-Fang law firm. I assumed he had as-yet-undiscovered talents that made him valuable to the senior partners despite his atttitude. Judging by the piles of papers in the room, he was probably the firm's resident research monkey, a highly esteemed position since most lawyers hated the role. Then I wondered if he had any idea that I had been fostered in a vampire household and that I might find this offensive. Again, I hid my reaction. Calling my boss out for being a bigot was not a smart move the first day on the job.

"So, where does that leave us?" I asked. It felt good using the plural. Our case. It made me feel like a real lawyer.

"In arbitration," Chip said.

"Geisler was years ago."

"Yeah, we've been in arbitration for seventeen years."

I stared around at the paper towers and felt my gut sinking toward the soles of my feet. "So all this ..." I gestured.

"Depositions. Interrogatories. Transcripts of arbitrations. I got a few other smaller cases ..."

His voice trailed away and he looked around the office with the air of a confused dog. I was reminded of the old basset hound my foster liege, Mr. Bainbridge, had owned. Dilbert constantly forgot where he'd hidden his bones. Mr. Bainbridge had spent many a night out with a flashlight, Dilly lumbering alongside and tripping over his ears while his well-trained owner searched for the lost bone.

I pulled Mr. Westin back to the Abercrombie case. "Why is this still going on?" I asked.

The response was blunt. "Because our clients are crazy. The wife and kids are demanding the entire company."

"And the court hasn't shut this down?"

"They don't give a shit. As long as we're in arbitration it's not their problem." He picked up a stack of papers and set it down. Picked up a file, flipped through it, set it aside. "We're about to start another round, and I yelled for help. One of our witnesses died last month, and Deegan's lawyers are challenging his deposition. I need somebody to help me prepare for this meeting."

"And that would be me?"

"Yep. Your lucky day, huh?" Westin suddenly realized I'd been standing for a long time. "Oh, I'm sorry."

He left his chair, hurried around the desk, lifted a stack of folders off the client's chair, and offered it to me. He then stood looking around. Once again I was reminded of Dilly. Westin tried to find a place for the stack of folders. There wasn't one. I stood back up and he set the folders back down on the chair. Even that much exertion left him short of breath. Pants punctuated each word as he said, "Sorry my office is a mess. Maybe now that you're here I can start to dig out. I'm really, really happy to have you on board."

"Thank you, I'm very excited to be here," I said, and it wasn't a lie.

Or at least I wasn't lying about my pleasure at having been hired by this particular firm. Only Gunther, Piedmont, Spann and Engelberg down in Washington, DC, had a better rep, but my folks — my real folks, not my vampire foster liege — hadn't wanted me to go that far away from home this early in my career.

"I'll need you to read through everything and see if you can think of any other witnesses or arguments we can use to bolster the idea that Abercrombie actually loved his wife and kids and wouldn't have cut them out without a dime."

"Despite abandoning them," I said somewhat acidly.

"No, no, no. He left them because he loved them too much to risk them, or warp his children by having them grow up with a werewolf daddy. It's all in the presentation." He gave me a grin that made him look like a delighted, fat-faced baby. "Our job is to present bullshit like it's filet mignon."

I decided I could work with him despite his prejudice, and I made a conscious effort to start thinking of him as Chip rather than Mr. Westin.

Chip rooted through the office, gathering up papers and files and piling them in my arms. When the stack was almost up to my chin, he said, "This should give you a sense of where we've been and where we're at."

"Great. I'll get started reading."

"We'll drop those in your office, and then I'll give you the dime tour. Also, I could use a snack, and the food's better up in teak heaven."

It took me a second to figure out what he was saying. We were on the seventieth floor, where the human associates resided. On the seventy-third floor was where the partners dwelled. Things were fancier up where the partners worked.

People said that working for a White-Fang firm was like stepping back to the sixties, but since I wasn't alive back then, I couldn't attest to the accuracy of the statement. I just noticed as we made our way across the common area housing the assistants that I didn't see a single male secretary, and it seemed that the male associates had the nicer, larger offices on the outer walls.

Chip kept leading us in and out of offices, as I tottered along behind like a pack mule with a precariously balanced load and he tossed out names like confetti. I have a terrible time remembering people's names unless I can pin the name to a face, but the only way I could see their faces was if I peered around my stack.

Only a couple of introductions stuck, because I was so worried about dropping the papers and causing a humiliating mess. One was Caroline Despopolis — blonde, tall, slender, and beautiful. We were both wearing Yves Saint Laurent skirts and jackets, but on her it looked fabulous while on me it looked dowdy. I wondered if the sage green jacket really complemented my black hair.

The only other introduction that made an impact was David Sullivan, and that was because he was a vampire. His luminous white skin made his eyes look like dark brown velvet. His taffy-colored hair was carefully styled into casual disarray, and it was pretty clear his suit had never hung on a rack. Definitely bespoke. But here he was down on the human floor. Vampires were partners. Partners didn't have offices on a human floor. Which meant he'd screwed up majorly to get banished like this. He saw my mental wheels turning as I did the analysis and reached my conclusion, and he rewarded me with a look that would have killed me on the spot if vampires really had that power.

But he still had the intimidation thing down pat, and since I'd grown up in a vampire household I immediately reacted, offering a submissive and wordless apology by tilting my head to the side and shaking my hair off my neck. Not that he would ever have bitten a woman, but Sullivan neither accepted nor acknowledged the apology. He just snorted and disappeared into his office.

The door to my office beckoned, and I managed to get through the door and deposit the stack just before the top files went sliding like the leading edge of an avalanche. As Chip helped me gather up the files he asked, in a too-casual tone, "That thing you did." He cocked his head awkwardly to the side. "That's like spook etiquette, right?"

I cringed and Chip looked contrite. "I don't mean any harm. It's just the way I was raised. My mom worked here, but my dad never did like it, and didn't much like the" — he made the mental correction and used the politically correct term — "powers, either. I hope you won't mention that I used that term."

I wondered if Chip would also say his use of the n-word didn't mean anything, and that it was just his background. But I didn't want to start out my tenure by ratting out a coworker. "Sure. No problem."

"I heard from Shade that you were fostered in a spook — er, vampire household. Is that true?"

"Yes, I was."

"How does a parent swing something like that?" Chip asked.

"I'm not exactly sure. My family's been pretty closely allied with the Powers since 1963. My grandfather was a lawyer, and he helped with the integration after the Powers came out — went public. However you want to put it."

"Sure does help your profile if you can establish that kind of relationship." Chip ran a hand across his face. "I sure would like my kids to have that advantage, even if it meant that the boys might turn into inhuman creatures."

I gave a mental sigh and decided that this was a habit Chip wasn't going to break easily. I also had to wonder why he was working in a vampire-run law firm, given his feelings. Had to be the mother thing. Vampires took loyalty to servants very seriously.

I gave a noncommittal answer. "I'll ask my dad. See if I can give you any pointers." But I doubted it would do much good. If there's one thing that can be said for the Powers, it's that they're snobs, and I had a feeling that neither Chip nor his offspring would pass muster with those households. I wasn't exactly sure how we had rated. Maybe it had to do with my family's illustrious past rather than our rather mundane present.

We once again passed through the reception area on our way to the elevators, and I noticed that the secretaries and assistants went into a huddle after we passed. Maybe the word had spread further than Chip that I had been fostered in a vampire household. That would inevitably result in them thinking I had gotten the job through connections, which I had — sort of. All of this meant I was going to have to work that much harder just to prove I deserved to be here.

I could feel the determination settling into my jaw as we stepped into the elevator. I almost suggested we take the stairs, but then I remembered how moving files and walking to my office had winded Chip and decided against it. Killing my boss on the first day was not a way to impress.

The seventieth floor was nice. Mahogany and cherry wood, slate tiles, green glass partitions to separate the assistants, private offices for the attorneys. The seventy-third was opulent. Teak furniture, polished Carrera marble floors softened by elaborate oriental rugs, an antique sideboard where an attractive and obsequious assistant would mix the beverage of your choice. A client might have to wait, but they would have a cocktail to sip while they waited.

And if said client wasn't tempted by the wide selection of magazines, both foreign and American, they could drift to the wall of windows (all carefully treated with heavy UV screens for the protection of the vampires) and look out across the shimmering patch of green that was Central Park. Right now the early morning sun danced on the skyscrapers on the far side of the park and Columbus Circle, turning them into crystal spires and pulling rainbow colors from their windows.

The receptionist looked to be all of twenty, and he was gorgeous in that pouty way that only a really handsome male can achieve. He ran a bored eye over me, and I could see the rejection. I tried to figure out why. Because I'm not seventeen? My outfit is dowdy? Then I caught his expression as his eyes drifted over to Chip. I'm with Chip. That's why I'm being dismissed.

"Anybody in the conference room?" Chip asked, pointing toward the heavy, carved-wood double doors.

"No. I guess you can go in there, but be quick about it." The kid's tone was curt to the point of being rude. The level of disdain set off my alarm bells. Chip might not be a vampire, but he was still an associate in the firm.

We stepped through the doors and were in a long hallway with offices to either side. The aroma of coffee hit my nose and my stomach gave a loud growl. I had been too nervous to eat this morning. Chip walked through a doorway on our left, and we were in a kitchen.

The fluorescent lights glittered on stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops. My apartment didn't have a kitchen this nice. A young woman was toasting a bagel.

Leaning casually against a counter and wolfing down a powdered-sugar donut was a stunningly handsome man dressed in blue jeans, a silk polo shirt, and a blue blazer. His hair was a mix of white, gold, and black streaks of varying widths, as if a hairdresser had gone mad during a highlighting session. His eyes were green and he sported a spectacular shiner.

Now that I was looking more closely, I realized he had a long grease stain across the back of his coat, which had one elbow ripped out. He was also pretty clearly an Álfar. Among all the Powers, only the fey folk possessed such devastating beauty.


Excerpted from This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova. Copyright © 2012 Melinda Snodgrass. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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.

Meet the Author

PHILLIPA BORNIKOVA has been the story editor of a major network television series, a horse trainer, and an oil-company executive. She lives in the Southwest. This Case Is Gonna Kill Me is her first novel.

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This Case is Gonna Kill Me 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
C3_1991 More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. It had an actual plot and character development (it wasn’t just stupid scenes tied together in order to give the main characters an excuse to have hot sex). I read a lot in the genre and this stood out, especially for a first-time author. I cannot wait to see what happens to Linnet in the next installment. Any fan of Patty Briggs or Kelley Armstrong will enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not a spoiler alert. Went to a convention & the publishers were talking about this novel thought it sounded interesting. Used the hour that B&N offers (thanks) and purchased it BEFORE the hour was up. Very entertaining. Can't wait for the next one to come out.
CheshireTheEngineer More than 1 year ago
A high pace story that starts out with Linnet fresh in the act of being a lawyer. Found this in F&SF. After a few pages I thought it should be in mystery and, hey, lawyers? With Hitchhikers Guide as a reminder about lawyers I figured I would try this book anyway. I am glad I did and finished in a day. If the next is this good I won't mind finding it in the Sci-Fi section.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plot takes off at that critical point in a new graduate's life: that 1st "real" job. The main character has graduated law school & is trying to find her feet s the newest associate at her fairly conservative "white fang" firm. Moreover she' s getting a decidedly cold shoulder from the rest of the associates even beyond the usual competition and her boss is the company dogsbody. Will she be able t rise to the chalenge? Good story, plenty of back story t set the tone of the characters thoughts, though she does get a bit overly whiny/insecure at first & likewise her initial interaction with her gay male friend seems a bit too convenient at first. Nice switch-up with the potential love interests & if i could ride a horse half as well as this character i would probably working in a stable somewhere :-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a surprisingly delightful twist on the genre. Well told and highly engaging. I am looking forward to more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Linnet Ellery is a newbie attorney in a world that includes vampires, werewolves, and fae. She is persistent to a fault in representing her clients and investigating her cases. Needless to say, danger is never far away. How she manages her caseload and stays alive makes for an entertaining read. The world building was innovative and the author was creative. I am looking forward to the next book.
WhatSmackSaid 8 months ago
I didn't find this novel particularly enthralling, but it was both easy enough to read and an enjoyable diversion from real life. My favorite part, hands down, is that the plot and the story's tension depended on legal circumstances and solutions rather than supernatural ones. Yes, there are vampires and fey and werewolves, but the main character is a lawyer and her goals are purely law-oriented. There were a couple important parts of the world that weren't examined with any kind of thoroughness, which deeply, deeply unsettled me. Primary among these instances is the idea that vampires don't bite women, ever. I, as the reader, understood it's supposed to be a sexist throwback that simply hasn't been examined by the novel's society with any rigor, but the main character was so blase, and her friend's outrage over it felt so manufactured, that the whole thing ended up being handled poorly and without any nuance at all. I'm not even sure if it was meant to simply be one of those unfair, sinister things within our culture that we overlook, or if there is some plot-related reason for it. Overall, I'm glad I got the ebook on sale. I wouldn't have been happy to pay full price for this book, but I did enjoy it well enough that I found a copy of the sequel at my local library and will begin reading it shortly.
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DobeLove More than 1 year ago
Nice twist on the whole vampire thing. Fun book to read while you're on an airplane, waiting in a doctor's office or just winding down from a long day at work.
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This book was highly engaging, and left me wanting more (in a good way). I can't wait to read the next book.
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