Author: Dan O’Brien
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Horror
Pages: 224 (paperback)
Selected By: Lady Esbe
Lady Esbe’s Score:
“A predator stalks a cold northern Minnesota town. There is talk of werewolves walking on two legs and attacking people in the deep woods. Lauren Westlake, a resourceful and determined FBI agent, has found a connection between the strange murders in the north and a case file almost a hundred-years old. Traveling to the cold north, she begins an investigation that spirals deep into the darkness of mythology and nightmares. Filled with creatures of the night and ancient romance, the revelation of who hunts beneath the moon is more grisly than anyone could have imagined.” – from the Amazon summary.
Lady Esbe’s Review
It has been a long while since I’ve completed an interim review. Mostly, I’ve not had time. Secondly, well, nothing that I’ve read on my own has inspired awe, until now. Unfortunately, this awe is not a good awe. I gave this one a shot because I’m always looking for a good werewolf novel or even a great thriller. This book was neither. Let’s start with the good.
I appreciate that the author decided to have a slightly different twist, in that werewolves could only be born, and not made. This would more than explain the dwindled number of their masses. There are few to no females in the werewolf population, though there are few human women who are up to the task of bearing a werewolf offspring. Ok, this isn’t necessarily a novel idea, but a not often explored twist of the werewolf lore. It’s a small thing, but something I could appreciate, even though it barely explained the purpose of one of the peripheral characters. And that folks, is where the good ends.
We are introduced to the main character, Special Agent Lauren Westlake who is allegedly a competent FBI agent who comes to a small town in Minnesota to help with a pattern of murders. This brings us to my first point of contention for this book. One murder does not a pattern make. How exactly does this catch the attention of an FBI agent when there is no “open case” to which it should be attributed to? It doesn’t, but let’s move on. So upon her arrival into town, she finds the local watering hole and “establishes her dominance” by berating a poorly dressed, backwoods woman who doesn’t quite grasp the concept that it may be -20 degree weather yet she is wearing daisy dukes and is less than attractive by normal people’s standards. Now initially I chuckled, but as the scene wore on, I became dismayed and annoyed. She goes from tough smart-ass to bumbling idiot in two seconds flat when confronted with an attractive male. Now, yet another point of contention, can you not be a professional, competent woman without feeling the need to swoon. I’ll circle back to this in a moment, but…it only gets worse from there.
So again, she’s in town to investigate a murder before it becomes a series of murders. Lauren presents herself at the sheriff’s office the day following her arrival for us to be introduced to a slightly misogynistic, arrogant sheriff, a bumbling idiot deputy, the busy body receptionist and the quirky medical examiner. Ok, fine, there are always formulas, but to add all of these stereotypes into one book was just unconscionable. One, ok, fine. Two, you’re pushing it. However, to have all these is just overkill. To further my issue with his stereotyping, I do believe he took a lesson from Kim Harrison by making the lead female character as flaky as they come. It was bad enough that she became an airhead upon meeting a sexy man; however, to take leave of all her investigative sensibilities and bring a “date” to a crime scene to only be checked by the sheriff and his fairly incompetent deputy flies in the face of every woman who’s ever achieved a position like this based off of merits versus her looks. If O’Brien had at least one competent female in his life, who’s worked her butt off to achieve her goals in a male dominated field, then he would not have so thoughtlessly made Lauren such a bubblehead.
I assume, in an attempt to give her a semblance of badassedness, O’Brien then makes Lauren rush headlong into situations that not only put herself at risk, but others. Each time, having to be saved by the only true werewolf in the novel only puts more ire into my reading of this drivel. I especially hated that knowing she was no match for the villain of the story, she goes running off into a factory to have a showdown with said killer. However, the only match, was who? The hot werewolf guy. I found myself having more empathy for the killer than the heroine (and I use that term loosely). While I didn’t want his reign of terror to continue, I completely saw that his situation was born out of confusion and a not so great frame of mind to begin with. Then to be pursued by this numbskull only made matters worse.
I’ll be honest. I try to be kind in my reviews and give some authors the benefit of the doubt. In speaking with Elle Tea, I told her this is the one time that I’m just going to flat out be the bad guy and give a story a horrible rating because that is what it merited. I cannot abide an author, even though it is fiction, who just piles stereotype upon stereotype and then adds in traits not usually possessed by women (rushing headlong into fights that they are ill equipped to handle) to claim a strength that the character never had to begin with.
I got this book for free on Amazon in 2013 and just made my way into reading it. Yeah. Free was definitely not good in this situation, and I’m irritated that I wasted 3 hours of my life on this book. Mr. O’Brien, please, I implore you, talk to a competent woman next time before trying to create what you think would be a promising heroine. The serial killer angle was fine. The werewolf lore was fine. All else in this failed miserably. Most of the time I’m conflicted about providing a low rating on a book; in this case, I have absolutely no qualms in saying: COMPLETE AND UTTER GARBAGE. Normally, I wouldn’t even bother to write an interim review. Oh no, not this time, because it was just that bad I felt that I had to lay vent to my grievances. Now, that I have purged, I can rest easy.
Lady Esbe read the Kindle-First version of this book.