Night Life: a Nocturne City novel
by Caitlin Kittredge
(St. Martin's, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-94829-8
***
A very good start to a new series that is hampered only by the fairly common flaw of trying too hard to be Kelley Armstrong or Laurell K. Hamilton. Kittredge overcomes that about halfway through this fast-paced novel; but even prior to that improvement, the book kept the blood pounding.

A smart-mouthed homicide cop with a pretty bad attitude (although not as tough as she is advertised to be), Luna Wilder is on a serial murder case.  Three women have been found in somewhat shady locales, each missing a finger.  The first victim, Lillia, is a werewolf.  Unfortunately for Luna, Lillia had a clan.  Her clanmates are bound by pack law to avenge her death, which doesn't make an investigation easy.  Also, since Luna abandoned the man who raped her to make her a werewolf, she has no clan, and clans do not like Insoli.

One good thing is Lillia's former pimp and long-time boyfriend Dmitri Sandovsky, who is the alpha of the group. Although his vigilante tendencies make Luna fret, they come in pretty handy once she's fired from the force for ticking off her boss one time too many. Or so it says on paper; really, the man and the district attorney are in cahoots trying to raise a daemon in Nocturne City.  Luna discovers quite a bit of information about the blood witches and this daemon while researching a similar string of murders some thirty years before. She enlists her cousin Sunny (who is a good witch, Dorothy) to help her interpret that murderer's journals while Luna and Dmitri set off to perform Dmitri's pack duty and clear Luna's name.

Luna, who seems to be pretty inept as a cop even before she's fired, bumbles through the clues.  The villains are revealed fairly early in the book, but the search for them and the consequences of messing with their process keep the plot moving right along.  The wicked tension between Luna and Dmitri - who have different morals, different blood, and work on different sides of the law, not to mention both carrying baggage from very badly-ended relationships — fills in the gaps and makes up for a lot of the faux-pas. Although they only consummate said tension once, the scene is pretty hot and a little off-the-wall (literally, on occasion), thus the "R" rating.  The ending is a bit of a whirlwind, but so are various other portions of the book. It does tie up the plot, but it leaves Dmitri and Luna up in the air as far as their relationship is concerned.

Night Life is written in first-person, which may give the reader too much insight into Luna, who isn't always that likeable of a character, especially as she leans toward being needy and whiny instead of tough. However, Kittredge does an admirable job of bringing the various other characters to light through Luna's eyes. This book will leave readers ready for the next in the series, due out this fall.

--Sarrah Knight


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