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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lori Handeland: NIGHTCREATURE

Author: Lori Handeland 
Series: NIGHTCREATURE 
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V4, S4, H3
Publisher and Titles: St. Martin’s:
      Blue Moon (2004);
      Hunter’s Moon (2006);
      Dark Moon (2005);
      Crescent Moon (2006);
      Midnight Moon (2006);
      Rising Moon (2006);
      Hidden Moon (2007);
      Thunder Moon (2008);
      Marked by the Moon (2010);
      Moon Cursed (2011);
      Crave the Moon (2011)

     The newest book in this series (Crave the Moon) is reviewed at the end of this blog.

     Werewolves and other shape shifters (most of them, anyway) are definitely the bad guys in this series. Plot lines for early books combine mystical Ojibwe mythology and Nazi legends as the Jäger-Sucher (hunter-searchers employed in secret by the U.S. government) spend their time in the forests of Wisconsin, killing and disposing of dangerous and powerful werewolves. Think X-Files set in Red Riding Hood’s woods.

     Later books expand the villainy list to other types of shifters and move the action to places like New Orleans and Haiti, where voodoo reigns. Each book tells one couple’s story as they meet, battle supernatural enemies, and become soul mates.

     The Jäger-Sucher began hunting werewolves during World War II, when Hitler’s monstrous doctor, Josef Mengele created a Nazi werewolf army. The Jäger-Sucher leader is Edward Mandenauer, a mysterious, devious man who lives only to kill shifters, and especially werewolves. His team is made up of hunters who search for and kill shifters all over the world, and scientists who concoct various vaccines that can alter the genetics of werewolves in various ways. So far, these vaccines have been used to help Edward’s hunters when they have been injured, or even bitten, by the werewolves they hunt. Edward constantly manipulates the personal and professional lives of his team, and eventually they learn never to trust him completely.          

      In Moon Cursed (the latest book), Kristin Daniels goes to Scotland to prove that the Loch Ness monster is a fake. Kristin produced a public television show (Hoax Hunters) that debunked ghost and monster stories until it was canceled due to low ratings. She sees this trip as a way to attract international attention and get her show back on the air. On her first evening in the quaint, but touristy, village of Drumnadrochit, Kristin (unbelievably) follows a mysterious man into a ruined castle and gets kissed—thereby setting off the love story. Liam Grant (the kisser) is a handsome sexy man who seems to hang around the Loch a lot, but the townspeople claim not to know him when Kristin asks about him. On Kristin's second night in Scotland, she stumbles over the body of a dead girl who has drowned in the Loch and learns that a serial killer is on the rampage.  Soon, Kristin is attacked by the unknown villain, but is saved (twice) by Liam. Howyou might askdo Edward and his Jäger-Sucher fit into this plot? Well...Edward serves as a semi-deus ex machina. He shows up in the village, talks Kristin into working for him as a spy (an improbability), and then pops up on her computer screen for several chats in which he feeds her clues and magically provides her with weapons. But why is Edward even interested in these crimes? Think about it: big lake monster + serial killingsfor Edward this equals a shape shifter gone bad. Yes, Edward suspects that Nessie is a murderous shifter. Someone had to write a Nessie shifter story, and this is it. The plot plays out like romantic suspense. We don't even have a shifter scene until just before the climax and resolution. The identity of the bad guy is predictable, as is the identity of the shifter, but Handeland always tells a good story.

     Marked by the Moon tells the story of Alexandra Trevalyn, a Jäger-Sucher hunter who believes that all werewolves are monstrous killers with no trace of any human emotional traits. Alexandra has strong reasons to hate werewolves, because the monsters murdered both her parents. Julian Barlow, an extremely  powerful werewolf with some extra magical talents, leads a civilized pack that kills no humans and lives peacefully next to an isolated Inuit village in the Alaska north woods. Some years ago, Alexandra killed Julian’s wife, so he hunts down Alexandra and punishes her by changing her into a werewolf, the thing she hates most in the world. Julian wants to make Alexandra understand that werewolves maintain their human qualities after they are changed over. Most of the book follows the ups and downs of Alexandra and Julian’s relationship, but there is a thin plot involving a possible rogue werewolf who kills some of the Inuit villagers. This book could definitely be read as a standalone.

     Crave the Moon reads like a regular romance novel until the final third of the book. The setting is a failing Arizona dude ranch owned by Gina O'Neill. Gina and her partner and childhood friend, Jace McCord, are trying their best to make a go of it, but they are swamped with bills and are in danger of losing the ranch. A history professor in Tucson has been asking Gina for permission to do an archaeological dig on ranch property, but Gina wants no part of an activity that would bring back painful memories of her parents' mysterious death in a cave-in in a remote part of their land. Mateo (aka Matt, aka Teo) Mecate is trying to salvage his late mother's reputation by proving that her theory about a hidden tomb of an Aztec super warrior is really true, and he is certain that he can find the answer on Gina's land. Matt visits Gina's ranch under an assumed identity, and the two fall in lust with each other, but the situation blows up in Matt's face when Jace jealously outs him and Gina kicks him out. Matt soon devises a way to get back to the ranch, where he and Gina make up (and make out). This is where the supernatural aspect kicks in big time. Gina had a weird experience during the horrendous cave-in that killed her parents, and ever since then she has heard her named howled in the winds that sweep unceasingly across the desert. Needless to say, everything goes wrong when Gina and Matt begin investigating the cave-in area. The Jäger-Sucher leader, Edward, leaps into the story near the end to save the day so that Gina and Matt can have their HEA.

     Blue Moon won the 2005 RITA Award for best paranormal romance. The books are classic SMR stories, with the lead couple falling into lust at first sight and then going through a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings that put them on an emotional seesaw, right up until the very end.

     Here's an interesting literary connection: In German, Jäger-Sucher means Hunter-Seeker, which is also the name of one of the weapons in the Dune cycles of Frank Herbert. Following is an explanatory quotation from the Wikipedia article entitled "Terms of Dune Cycles":


     "The hunter-seeker is a small arrow-like drone, to movement and sound responding. It is remotely controlled from the surrounding area and is often used to kill aristocrats and their children. The hunter-seeker bores into the body and destroys vital organs."         

This blog entry was last updated on 7/29/2011.

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