You know, just about the last thing I’m looking for when I pick up a book is 336 pages of staccato dialogue delivered by a bunch of crabby, unpleasant people. Add in a confused plot largely predicated on back story from previous books requiring a lot of really awkward exposition and the result, as you can imagine, is less than auspicious.
The crabbiness starts pretty much on page one with the book’s narrator (yes, it’s first person), self-proclaimed ice queen Dr. Elise Hanover. A virologist and werewolf (now there’s a combo you don’t run across every day), she works in a super secret lab in the middle of Montana working to develop a cure for the werewolf virus. Just so can get a real picture of this woman, she works basically alone a million miles from nowhere and wears spike heels in the lab. Now, I don’t know about you, but when an author introduces me to a woman who wears spikes when there are no attractive males or other women around to impress, I say “hello” to a fictional character.
Still, with all that said, I certainly can’t fault the author for not setting a cracking pace, since things happen pretty darn quickly in this novel. Once Elise’s ex-college boyfriend, FBI agent Nic Franklin, makes a surprise appearance in her lab, it doesn’t take long for the lab compound to blow up and the two to hit the road. Their destination is a small Wisconsin town where Elise’s former guardian, the head of the super secret bad-creature fighting group she works for, is investigating, along with a few other equally crabby and unpleasant cohorts, a string of disappearances he’s convinced are connected to werewolves gone wild.
I’ll spare you the detail, but the goings-on here involve some kind of werewolf-supernatural conspiracy that clearly doesn’t spell good things for human-kind. Along the way you get lots of tough-girl scenes in which characters play macho “I’m-tougher-than-you-are” games with each other, plus a few revelations about Elise’s past that do absolutely nothing to humanize her, and some pretty tepid sex.
Neither Elise or Nic – not to mention every other character in the book – ever felt even remotely real to me or, let’s face it, even remotely likable either. But, to make matters worse, you’re faced with the inescapable fact that page after page of staccato dialogue delivered by lackluster people is hard enough to read, harder still when you’re also expected to follow a complicated plot.
I’ve said it before and I guess I’ll have to say it again: Butt-kicking, spike-wearing, tough-talking cartoon characters do not a book make. No matter how much butt you kick or the number of designer names you drop, it doesn’t mean the proverbial hill of beans if your characters aren’t real. And, from where I’m sitting, books in this genre managing to do both seem to be getting harder and harder to find.