Second Skin is the third book of Kittredge’s heroine-centered Nocturne City series. This book joins the growing number of urban fantasies out there with aggressive kick-butt female leads. Luckily, this one rises above the middle of the pack with intelligent writing and scary, action-packed adventures. The series should be read in order, however – if this was the first book you read, there may be times when you get lost.
As the story opens, Luna Wilder’s SWAT team is trying to talk down a jumper. Unfortunately, they don’t succeed, but just before the man jumps a hundred feet to his death, he finds Luna’s eyes in the crowd. Before she’s able to ponder that oddity, a colleague from her detective days (which weren’t so long ago) shows up and asks for her help on a homicide case he’s working. She gives him a very obvious brush-off, but she doesn’t get far before he reveals that all the victims were werewolves. Since Luna is also a werewolf, and the only one in law enforcement that she knows, it doesn’t take long for her to call Bryson back and offer to help.
The opening pages are really the only time Luna spends with her SWAT team – for the rest of the book she basically functions as a detective again, just minus the credentials. With Bryson and her magical cousin, Sunny, Luna starts to unravel the disturbing case. Along the way, she encounters a new-to-her monster, with its accompanying magic and folklore. She must also deal with the different werewolf packs of the city, which are crying out for justice for their fallen pack members.
The only person not involved with Luna’s hunt is her boyfriend, Dmitri. From the very beginning, they are on rocky ground and their relationship only fractures further as time moves on. Dmitri gave up his pack to be with Luna, but he keeps pushing her to make a commitment and become a Redback like him. As an Insoli, a werewolf who belongs to no pack, she feels incredibly opposed to joining one. She wants the independence, Dmitri wants to protect her and possess her in a way, so they argue a lot. Another issue in their relationship comes from a prior battle in which Dmitri was infected by a demon, so he has a dangerous side that gets more and more difficult to control.
The “romance” was the weakest part of the book – it certainly shouldn’t be categorized as such. Because of the constant fighting, I didn’t care much about Dmitri or whether he and Luna stayed together. Another man enters the picture and gets set up as a possible future boyfriend. But then he does some terrible things and I suddenly didn’t care much for him either. I often felt that the men in Luna’s life were simply there for the sake of conflict. In fact, some of the reasoning behind the decisions she makes in her love life didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
However, I enjoyed the intelligence of the story and the fact that not too much time is spent rehashing background info. But my favorite thing was the truly suspenseful action sequences. The monsters are described very vividly, and I loved the horror of certain scenes. It’s been a while since I’ve had that anxious feeling in my gut while enjoying a particularly scary moment. If you don’t like horror or cannot handle violence, you’ll probably want to stay away from this book. My only quibble about the action came at the end, when the final battle went down. The precision of the previous action scenes seemed to break down and the big climax was a bit of a mess – I had a hard time keeping track of what was going on.
There were a couple other things that tripped me up. Luna practically never rests, just moves from battle to battle with all kinds of wounds, no food, and no sleep. Even a werewolf would need some downtime or healing time. She was also one of those heroines who are too mouthy, though she knows it and admits it, which does earn points in her favor. But these small annoyances were more or less swallowed up in some rip-roaring action.
If you like paranormals, especially ones with a good dose of horror, check out the Nocturne City series. Romance seems to be low on the list of priorities, at least in Second Skin, but it was good, spooky fun. Now I just need to go grab the first and second books of the series so I can get all caught up before the fourth comes out.