‘Infected: Prey’ by Andrea Speed
Anne Cain’s cover (so unlike the smart one she did for Aaron Bradley) was such a personal turnoff that I kept the book on my shelf for two months before I bothered to open it. The old cliche about book and cover remains apt.
The author, the editor-in-chief of the Comixtreme website, has created an intriguing supernatural world in which some humans have been infected by a virus that creates five strains of werecats. The hero, Roan McKichan, has been a werelion from birth, but his lover, Paris Lehane, was infected as an adult and is a weretiger. Though AIDS furnishes the basic template, the conceit allows the author to explore difference without all the baggage that the gay vampire novel has accumulated.
At heart, the two novellas included in the present volume are old fashioned detective stories. A former police officer, Roan has a “compulsion to solve puzzles and [the] ability to look at a scene, at a pile of evidence, and see the tiny little flaw that would bring the whole thing crashing down. Roan was a born investigator, he was almost supernaturally good at it.”
In Infected, he is called in by his former partner on the force to help track a serial killer who is a werecat, quite unlike any previously known. To find the killer, Roan must discover his link to the victims. In Prey, the recurring character Eli Winters, head of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the serial killer who is taking out infected young people associated with his congregation.
Throughout both cases, Paris counters Roan’s tendency to close himself off emotionally. His role becomes poignant when the reader learns that weretigers rarely live beyond age 35, and Paris is already in his late 20s. Yet, there is never a hint of bathos in this disclosure: the two mates still have all the problems normal humans do in opening up to each other. Many of their exchanges and reactions to others are downright humorous and always believable.
I hope this book will receive enough sales to push the publisher to bring out more of the series; eight other stories are posted to the author’s website.
By Andrea Speed
Paperback, 364 p., $17.99