by Sparkle Hayter
Publication Date: May 1, 2002
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: No Exit Press
Annie Engel hasn’t been feeling herself lately. With good reason. A mousy secretary by day, she’s been morphing into a werewolf at night. In the morning, she’s not quite sure what she’s been up to, but she knows she’d like to do it again. She soon discovers that her odd dreams and strange hangovers are actually the remnants of a night out on the prowl.
But Annie’s predatory activities have not gone unnoticed, and soon she is being pursued by one hapless reporter, a psychiatrist who wants to save her from her beastly impulses, and another (guy) werewolf who captures her heart. Who is a nice werewolf to trust? Get ready for a manic, madcap chase through the dank underbelly of the big city, a place where no one seems to sleep and the scents of fear and desire are always in the air.
Years ago, I read Sparkle Hayter’s mystery series featuring Robin Hudson, and enjoyed it tremendously. Years pass and I’m digging through a local used bookstore and stumbled across this completely different style of book, but the author’s name is not one that’s easily forgotten, so I grabbed it. It sounded funny.
I finally got around to reading it this year and it was every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be, and in fact, better, since I was wary over the different narrative style and genre. It’s also told in the third person, which can be tricky for me.
The story revolves primarily around Annie, the last nice girl in the big city (which, while never named explicitly, is NYC). She’s a secretary during the day and normally a door-mat for her two ‘best friends’ at night, being dragged from vapid party to vapid party while her two friends kill themselves to become famous. But lately, she’s been having weird dreams, and waking up in the morning covered in blood, to find broken bedroom windows, and the need to vomit up whatever she ate the night before, which seems to be meat, which is odd, as she’s a vegetarian.
Then there’s Jim – he’s a werewolf and he’s come back to the city after a self-imposed exile, the kind of exile where everybody thinks you’re dead. He runs into Annie one night when she’s not herself and they hit if off in a love-at-first-sight kind of way – if only he knew who she was or what she looked like in her less hirsute form…
Dr. Marco knows there’s a werewolf running around uncontrolled in the city and is frantic to find it, bring it into the center, and reform it using a tried and true method of drugs, restraints, and group therapy. If he can’t find it, his family will and they’ll put it down rather than risk exposure.
And then there’s Sam, the hapless, truly kind, incredibly lucky, has-been reporter, desperate to hold on to his wife and his career. He hears about the ‘vicious dog attacks’ that are leaving dead bodies all over the city and turns it into the career comeback he’d been hoping for, while the rest of the station’s crew, against their better judgement, turn themselves inside out to help him. Because he’s just no nice.
Annie has to choose between the chance at a normal life by submitting to Dr. Marco’s rehabilitation center, or being on the run, in love, and having hot animal (literally) sex. It’s a hard choice – especially amidst a city wide armed hunt for the mad-dog killers leaving dead bodies all over the place.
There’s a lot going on here, and I’m not even going to touch on all the ‘secondary’ characters from whom the reader occasionally hears from. The narrative starts off a little slowly, as it takes awhile to figure out who all the players are and what’s going on. But once everybody’s found their place, the story is fun, and a very different kind of morality tale. I love that the good guys get good stuff and the bad guys get … eaten. Or at least, what they deserve.
I thoroughly enjoyed this and I’ll likely read it again. I won’t call it speculative fiction, but it’s very different from the garden variety werewolf stories I’ve read before, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a different take on a common theme, done with a cynical sort of humor.
I read this for Halloween Bingo, and it easily qualifies for at least three squares: Shifters, Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses, and Gallows Humor, which allows me to invoke my first Spell Pack card: the all-new Double Trouble. I’m choosing to use it for the first two squares: Shifters and Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses.