Blue Moon

By Any Other Name

The Daddy Quest

A Sheriff in Tennessee

Mother of the Year

Rico

 
Dark Moon by Lori Handeland
(St. Martin's Paperbacks, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-99136-3
****
Seven years ago, Dr. Elise Hanover disappeared. Once a normal college student, she is now a member Jager-Suchers, an elite paranormal termination squad. As second in command, Elise holds a great responsibility, and an even greater secret. What would her squad think if they knew the reclusive researcher went furry once a month?

Hidden away in a paramilitary-type compound, Elise searches for a lycanthropy cure. Finding a way to rid victims of the werewolf-causing virus is Elise's only hope for returning to a normal life. But things go awry when former love Nic Franklin suddenly invades her compound. Barely after their hellos are said, the compound explodes, taking with it Elise's research and releasing some of the deadliest creatures unknown to man. Now Elise and Nic must search for answers along with the rest of the Jager-Suchers. Elise isn't sure who is more deadly: the wolves she's chasing, the bad guys chasing them, or her colleagues who seem way too ready to put a silver bullet in her brain.

Dodging bad guys, good guys and Nic's natural inquisitiveness, Elise is hard-pressed to keep her secret. And when the call of the wild becomes overwhelming, she starts to question if she should. After all, what's a little fur when you have all this power?

Dark Moon is a riveting tale, so fast-paced, it's almost impossible to find a convenient spot in which to put it down. Handeland superbly mixes character development into the action scenes so subtly that the characters seem to evolve seamlessly. In the course of the book Nic realizes werewolves, witches and the like exist, sees a transformation and becomes involved with the J-S team. Yet his growth never seems rushed. At each stage, we see Nic become a bit more accepting of Elise and the beast within her.

As for Elise, she's an excellent character. She's bitter, withdrawn and afraid of herself at the beginning of the book. Slowly, she makes peace with her furry side, but never loses her edge. She's reminiscent of early Anita Blake - a hard-nosed killer who is always on the defensive, always one step away from becoming one of the monsters she is hunting.

Elise's "family", her guardian Edward, plays a large part in the story. Handeland gives us just enough information about Elise's background and upbringing for the reader to sympathize with both sides. After killing her werewolf mother, Edward raises the child, never knowing if she possesses the demon inside of her, if she will one day turn on him. He treats her as a test subject, handing out his love and approval to everyone but her. While Elise grows up unaware that Edward keeps a silver bullet trained on her at all times, she does know his love is something she will never earn.

Handeland does an excellent job of showing us how this kind of conditional approval aimed at a child can scar an adult. Therefore, we understand why Elise is what she is, how she can rip a bad guy's throat out with no remorse. Handeland doesn't sugarcoat Elise's childhood or the violent world in which she lives.

Dark Moon blends action, romance and just a bit of humor into an enchanting tale that will leave the reader wanting more. Luckily for us, there's always Blue Moon and Hunter's Moon, to tide us over until Handeland's next novel.

--Amanda Waters


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