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Monday, June 11, 2012

Infected: Shift by Andrea Speed

Infected: Shift by Andrea Speed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (364 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 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.

Between his mutating virus and his rocky relationship with his artist boyfriend, Dylan, Roan has enough problems to solve without taking on other people’s, but that’s the nature of his work. Someone has to look into the case of the murdered trans woman, and if the perp is the dirty cop Roan suspects it is, the police are not the right people for the job.

But now Roan has a new obstacle to overcome: someone caught part of his transformation on video, and the media frenzy is making it hard to do his job. One case nets him a hockey team full of new friends. Another leads to an attempt on his life. And Roan’s hustler sidekick drags him on a quest for revenge. With his world and his body both in turmoil, Roan is finding it harder and harder to see the line between justice and vigilantism.

My long nails are toast. Infected: Shift had so many edge-of-your-seat scenes and action sequences paired with emotional suspense and drama, that I needed an outlet. I was out of chocolate so my nails paid the price from reading chapter after chapter of intelligent, gripping and sharp as a blade storytelling. Ms. Speed has cemented my continued fascination with Roan and his life’s challenges with this clever and well written tale full of mystery, murder and mayhem.

With the first mystery, I was treated to new characters that stirred the pot of romance and curiosity. The author put me on a see-saw of “will he or won’t he” which applies to three different potential aspects of Roan’s life. All of them were compelling and hands down the most emotional elements. As for the action, a reader gets walloped with lion action, hoodlum violence and police activity. It was an incredible ride.

Another reason to smile and giggle in appreciation is Ms. Speed’s use of movie and actor references. I adored the one about Judi Dench. After reading this tale, I might just take up watching hockey. The author created a wonderful slapstick moment, pun intended, for readers of this book. Scott and Tank and Grey Williams were delightful secondary characters and I enjoyed watching Roan meeting them and all the fun those boys got into. In fact, I had the best reading experience whenever Roan and the guys were together. It almost seemed as if the author had as much fun writing those chapters as I had reading them; there was something vibrant and alive that seemed to hum from the words.

Readers of the series know how hard it’s been for Roan since his husband, Paris, died. In this first installment, it gets a bit worse. I ached for the hero but at the same time felt he needed a swift kick. I enjoyed those weird dream sequences the author uses to help that along. It’s a pretty unique technique and it works incredibly well. Combine real life with his subconscious and Roan is forced to open his eyes and share a bit of his heart. That was an emotionally dramatic scene and well written.

The fun continued with the next story. It started off with an intense scene that means business and then it back tracked in time. I really enjoyed those hockey players and Ms. Speed has the best sense of how to maximize their effect on the plot and story line, providing pure entertainment. The bathroom scene could have been incredibly intense but the author inserted some action with great dialogue so that I giggled when the officer took the moron away. It was so well done with clear and vivid writing I could almost see the activity in my mind’s eye.

And Tank…what a brilliantly written character. Whenever he was on stage I laughed so hard I could hardly breathe. Readers are going to get the biggest kick out him. He was interesting in the first story but in this one? He’s a scream. It’s a good thing that his character brought levity to the table because the second mystery was much more serious, gruesome and sad.

Once again, Roan is called in to investigate a person’s disappearance. This time the client has money, power and arrogance and the writing makes that clear. What also is made clear is the fact that money cannot buy happiness, peace, or a personality. Nor can it teach a person how to be a parent or a decent human being and in this case, I’m sure the client wishes it did. It also explores the old adage, ‘you reap what you sow’ in a very graphic and poignant manner.

Holden was a bit more in the background in the first installment although he certainly had his moment of stress and drama. It was a big moment, to be sure but the best/worst was yet to come. After reading this book, I have come to the conclusion that Holden and Roan are very similar in a lot of ways. Both feel deeply about those they care for, and both are jaded and cynical enough to get the job done no matter how messy, violent or questionable it might be. Both men have secrets on secrets and although a reader has the benefit of seeing through Roan’s point of view, I never feel like I come close to pinning Holden down. It makes his character all the more interesting and intriguing. They make a good team but I don’t believe we’ll be seeing them as a couple. They’re too messed up. Thank goodness for Dylan.

A reader finally has a bit more clarity about the status of Roan and Dylan’s relationship after reading Infected: Shift. I am glad to finally have more insight. The hockey guys were a nice touch to the event so it doesn’t spiral down into anything mushy. Which is good because Roan doesn’t do mushy anything. At least, not willingly.

I also enjoyed having Dee, Dropkick, Fiona and the other secondary characters from past novels pop in and out throughout this story. It gave a sense of community, continuity and connection and is one of the reasons why these books read so well. It allowed me to immerse myself in a world that has enough detail, dialogue and descriptions to inspire a bonding feeling with the imaginary world thatMs. Speed has created. Sometimes, the story is so gripping and twisted, I don’t want it to end. Roan and company are endlessly fascinating and never, ever boring.

Infected: Shift proves that Ms. Speed has an extraordinary talent for writing drama, suspense and tortured heroes with a level of skill that delivers quality stories again and again. This time around, the points of view shifts were not jarring but instead flowed well, were logical and well balanced, and the author kept a tight rein on them. There was an impressive balance of darkness, humor, self-depreciation and hope. There were also some shocking revelations and stunning new questions raised about being a virus child. I’m also happy about the continued relationship with Roan and Dylan. I enjoyed their repartee, and the growth shown throughout the chapters as well as how Roan is slowly opening up to the man he loves. He’s doing it at a snail’s pace, that’s for sure, but that’s our hero – stubborn. Anyone who is looking for an action filled mystery story can’t go wrong with Infected: Shift. There is nothing I didn’t like and no scene that came across as lame or ineffectual. It might be considered a standalone read as the mysteries are not carryovers from previous books but reading the previous stories it might help to understand the emotional drama and self-flagellation that Roan tends to excel at. In any event, this is a powerhouse type book and it’s one for my keeper shelves. Andrea Speed rocks!

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