Werewolves get fresh treatment in horror tale
THERE have been stories about werewolves since, oh, the ninth century or so. But there probably hasn’t been a werewolf story like Red Moon (Grand Central, 536 pages, $18), by Minnesota’s Benjamin Percy. You wouldn’t really notice the book is set in an alternate version of today except for one thing: in this book, werewolves aren’t mythological creatures. They’re real, they’ve existed for centuries, and the uneasy peace between them and humans is about to be shattered. The novel focuses on a small group of characters, including a girl whose parents have been inexplicably murdered and a passionately anti-werewolf U.S. governor. Of the book’s many virtues (including some nice parallels to post-9/11 America), perhaps the most notable is the way Percy humanizes the werewolves: these aren’t drooling animals, they’re ordinary men and women suffering from an incurable disease that alters them in a fundamental way, turning them into something not quite human. Like Justin Cronin’s vampire novel The Passage, this one takes a well-worn theme and freshens it up while turning it into capital-L literature. A beautifully written horror story. In Great North Road (Del Rey, 926 pages, $10), British science-fiction writer Peter F. Hamilton turns in another fine performance. Set in 2143, this is an epic-sized story that begins with a seemingly unsolvable murder. The victim is a North — a member of an extended family of clones — but there’s nothing to indicate which of the many, many Norths he might be, and the family doesn’t think any of its members are missing. Detective Sidney Hurst thinks the homicide might be connected to a 20-year-old case in which another North was murdered; a woman was convicted of that crime, but Sidney is pretty sure she’s innocent. The woman has always claimed a monster killed the North 20 years ago. The killer question: Is she telling the truth? Hamilton uses the murder as a jumpingoff point for a story that combines horror, science fiction and mystery, all in one absolutely compelling package. The Sigma Force thrillers, by American novelist James Rollins, have often had an element of science fiction to them, but The Eye of God (Harper, 554 pages, $12) is about as close as the series has come to crossing over the genre line. A satellite comes crashing to Earth, its last transmitted image a photograph of three American cities, utterly destroyed. Everybody panics until they figure out the image is a picture of future events — about 90 hours in the future, to be exact. Painter Crowe and his Sigma team have less than four days to, well, prevent the end of the world. Rollins is one of the more dependable thriller writers out there: his stories are exciting and imaginative, his pacing impeccable — if you don’t finish the book slightly out of breath, you’re probably not reading it right. The Lawyer’s Lawyer (Center Street, 404 pages, $18), by Florida’s James Sheehan, is the third novel starring Jack Tobin, the semi-retired Miami criminal attorney. At first, Jack isn’t inclined to take the case of a death-row inmate who claims he’s innocent of murder, but Tobin changes his mind when he finds out the man was convicted with false evidence. Jack gets the man sprung from prison, but that isn’t the end of the story — it’s the beginning, actually, of Jack’s own desperate battle to save himself from a charge of homicide. Like Scott Turow, another lawyer-turnedauthor, Sheehan has a genuine literary gift. The book’s ending is a bit weak (it feels rushed, as if he had used up his designated page count and had to wrap things up quickly), but otherwise this is an excellent novel, with a solidly constructed story and some very fine writing. For legal-thriller fans, a must-read. Halifax freelancer David Pitt’s column appears the first weekend of every month.