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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Infected: Freefall by Andrea Speed

Infected: Freefall by Andrea Speed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (340 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

Conceived bearing the lion strain of the virus, Roan is the only fully functioning virus child in the country—maybe in the world. But that doesn’t mean he’s okay. He’s still struggling with the death of his husband and the guilt of finding new love; his old enemy, the Church of the Divine Transformation, is becoming increasingly hostile; and he’s taken on a tragic cold case involving a long-missing boy.

As Roan fights to control the lion inside him, his world explodes with all kinds of trouble. The leader of the church is ramping up the violence against him, calling Roan out as a traitor to his kind. There’s a loose Infected terrorizing the city. And Holden, male prostitute and Roan’s unofficial assistant, brings him a case involving the suspicious death of one of Holden’s clients, which puts Roan far too close to a murderer for his state of mind....

Ms. Speed has a knack for delivering surprises and deep introspection while keeping a reader off balance with the twists and turns of her storytelling. Roan continues to be the main hero but the author intrigued me with her decision to push to the forefront one of the secondary characters from the previous book. In a quirky kind of way, he reminds me of Paris, with a dark side.

Even though I make mention of a previous book, Infected: Freefall can stand on its own merits because it’s about two new mysteries. The author provides enough background for a reader to understand whatever reference is pertinent to these new adventures. Any needed knowledge is basically about understanding Roan’s past experiences and how they are playing into his present. In these two installments a reader sees more character growth, more questions are raised and some answers will leave a fan of this series wide-eyed.

Dialogue continues to be a strong asset to this series. Ms. Speed uses it to good effect because it taps into each character’s personality and brings insight and clarity to the person, the moment and/or the plot progression. Roan continues to have a knack for being snarky in an entertaining manner whether it be directed at a secondary character or himself. Even the new guy on the block, Holden, has a gift for words but there’s a reason for that and it was explored a bit in this tale. It may seem odd, but the dialogue exchange that produced the biggest grin was this little gem, “I don’t want to be Yorick. He died.” Holden rolled his eyes. “It was Hamlet. Everybody died.” For some reason that cracked me up.

Dylan continues to grow as a love interest for Roan. I’m sure there is love there between the two men but it’s riddled with so much internal angst that it’s a toss-up if it’s going to survive or not. Certainly Dylan has a quiet strength that complements Roan, but the hero being the man that he is tests Dylan’s patience mightily. And, it’s done in unusual ways because that’s what Ms. Speed does – normal is boring and predictable. Nothing about these two men’s relationship is predictable. A reader can see that clearly.

Holden is the huge surprise. I never suspected that the author had such powerful plans for him. I get the feeling that Infected: Freefall is exploring only the tip of the iceberg of his character. There are hints of darkness about him but there is vulnerability and pain too. Holden is an interesting addition to the cast and I liked him. It remains to be seen what his personality is going to stir up in the Roan/Dylan mix or will it be purely professional. It’s a great hook and a reason to look forward to the next adventure in Roan-land.

As has been established, Infected: Freefall is broken up into two mysteries. Basically it’s like getting two books in one. There's violence and action because there's nothing tame or vanilla about the life of an infected. At times the book reads harsh, other times it’s amusing, or it’s shocking and filled with nail-biting suspense. The pace was brisk where it needed to be or slow to give a reader time to savor the moment. In that, the quality of Ms. Speed’s writing remains true. I enjoyed all the “Batman” references and chuckled quite a few times which is a good thing. It balances all the viciousness and criminal behavior that peppers the book. Some parts are not easy to read but they grip a reader’s imagination in a tight hold as readers journey on the gritty path that is Roan’s life.

The only thing that stymied me was the head hopping. On one hand, getting into Dylan’s or Holden’s head to see their side of things greatly enhanced the overall understanding of the men in Roan’s life. On the other hand, it annoyed me. I wanted Roan. He’s my favorite and I enjoy only being in his head because he’s so fascinating, conflicted and his internal dialogue is so stark. The other points of view engendered a love/hate kind of feeling because I can see the value of having it done that way but for some reason it didn’t gel for me 100%.

As for the other people that make up Roan’s life and environment, Dee is back for a bit and Murphy sort of pops in when needed, Fiona is working out so far and someone named Shep appeared briefly but has some interesting insight into Roan. Every person fills in little pieces of the puzzle that is our hero, and I’m even more intrigued by his character than ever because he continues to be deep, dark and mysterious.

Infected: Freefall weaves drama, dark humor and the foibles of the human condition into a story that seizes a reader’s emotions and puts them through the wringer. It’s about a less than perfect hero with a compulsion to save others but can’t save himself. He’s tortured mentally with insecurity, physically by the virus while his heart still bleeds for his deceased husband, Paris. There's hope that Dylan might be the answer to Roan’s emotional pain and this book feeds that train of thought. Infected: Freefall is a busy and hectic ride into crime, greed and with multiple suspects, a classic who-done-it. It’s entertaining, engrossing and despite all the potential darkness, hopeful. Ms. Speed has another winner on her hands and I can’t wait until the next adventure.

1 comment:

Debby said...

This is a fantastic series. Great review!
debby236 at gmail dot com