Were­wolves get fresh treat­ment in hor­ror tale

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By David Pitt

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.

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