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Fang and Claw (Undead Unit Book 1) Kindle Edition
|Length: 219 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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I really enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced and well-researched and the characters were interesting. I especially enjoyed how the author demonstrated how easily even innocuous actions can be misinterpreted as malicious when we refuse to look at things from another person's point of view. The world Ms. Madden created was also really interesting, and I think the advances she imagined are well within the realm of possibility given the time frame. All-in-all, this was a really fun read and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series. :-)
Instead Madden delivers a solid police procedural with a heavy dose of paranormal psychodrama. And that's sad, because this makes Fang and Claw an original approach to paranormal fiction that could turn into a rare gem as Madden develops as a writer. Madden emphasizes the everyday detail of the search and wait required by law to build a solid case rather than the bloodlust of the beast.
Think of Fang and Claw as X-Files meets Law and Order SVU, with Mulder and Scully being Lycan and Vampire. Scully is 500-year-old vampire Lacey Anderson, Dallas Police Lieutenant assigned to the Undead Crimes Unit and to supervise werewolf Colt Scarber, whose pack wiped out her clan in 1600s Athens.
Lacey can't forget this fact, unfortunately, nor can the readers because Madden reminds us just about every other page, managing to drag up the grudge at every possible opportunity and dropped hint. Just when you think we've got it and the story's back on track, she's pouring her sob story out to someone else—her bartender, department mandated shrink, the lab tech unfortunate enough to take the latest DNA handoff. (Besides, she's been a vampire for five hundred years. She's not a teen anymore. If a vampire couldn't get over it, then you would hope a cop with a hundred years in homicide would grow a thicker skin.)
When Madden does remember to return to the plot, she builds a solid one, a good procedural built around a skinwalker who serially assaults his victims. (No real spoiler alert here, they identify the suspect half-way through the book and most of the novel depicts they handle the evidence to prove their case in a court of law). Unfortunately, skinwalkers are so rare no one believes they exist anymore, and Madden once again needs to remind readers of this at every opportunity. Every character involved in the chain of evidence, including the janitor, is compelled by the author to say, "Skinwalkers are real? I thought they were myths."
Being a first time writer, Madden misses too many opportunities to build real dramatic intrigue and character development into the story line. A skinwalker plays heavily in Anderson's traumatic history as well current case, but Madden never thinks to bring involve the same skinwalker in both, or to use him to threaten Anderson.
Nor does she really explore the motif of Lycan anger. She teases the reader with the fact that Scarber has to attend anger-management classes but in the end Madden almost paints him as a teddy bear partner for Anderson and ideal husband. She never explores the reality Sarber deals daily with the prospect of falling into genetically and culturally-ingrained patterns of abuse towards his wife and cubs at home (in fact, he never thinks of his children as cubs as do Bill Willingham's characters Big Bad Wolf and Snow White).
I also found myself wondering why, when Madden feels compelled to project the reader forward to the world of 2118 before Immortal Rights are accepted (when almost every other PN and PNR writer doesn't), technology failed to advance much past 2020. The singularity clearly hasn't occurred, the most advanced technology police use is wireless tablets, people still drive cars and still watch movies on TV and DVDs. It's as though the world of Neuromancer never happened, nor did climate change, or any major political shift.
We can hope readers will forgive Madden for breaking from the paranormal formula and stick with her as she explores the series. We can also hope she'll learn from some of her mistakes as the series continues. She has talent that other indie writers lack. The limitation of the time lapse, however, is one readers will have to live with. In Madden's world our grandchildren will still be watching DVDs on low resolution HDTV in a hundred years and driving cars on polluted streets. And, no doubt, the Dallas Cowboys will still be 8-8 under their Vampire owner Jerry Jones.
5 = Delicious dialogue, crisp prose, clever characters & compelling plot
4 = Great read, won't want to stop (5 for many reviewers)
3 = Definitely worth buying
2 = I will tell you what audience will like this, but most readers will want to look elsewhere
1 = If I review a book this bad I felt seriously compelled to warn you
Phillip T. Stephens is the author of "Cigerets, Guns & Beer," "Raising Hell" and the new release "Seeing Jesus."
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Read from June 22 to July 21, 2016
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