Killing Moon
by Rebecca York, paranormal (2003)
Berkley, $5.99, ISBN 0-425-19071-4


I'm a bit slow in that I actually spent two days staring at the cover of this book, trying to figure out whether that... thing... on the cover depicts two copulating werewolves (don't even think of asking!), an oddly-shaped rock formation, a malformed bison, or that monster from the John Carpenter cult classic movie The Thing after some lipo treatment. Duh, it hit me only this morning that it's a woman sitting with her head buried between her knees.

Rebecca York is the pseudonym of Ruth Glick. I'm supposed to know something about Ruth Glick because this book trumpets the author as "Ruth Glick writing as Rebecca York". Barring some of the "Dancing Gay Boys On The Cover" Harlequin/Silhouette anthologies that Ms York contributed to, however, this is the first time I'm reading a book by her. Killing Moon stars a werewolf PI. It's a very interesting story, and the werewolf lore is very well-developed and written that I find this book emminently readable despite its serious flaws in pacing and in developing the romance.

Ross Marshall is a werewolf descended from a long line of spellcasting Druids. He can shapechange at will, so it's not a full-moon let's-get-hairy affair here. In this book, all werewolf males are born alpha while the females die very early after birth. Ross and his few surviving siblings cannot even stay in the same room with each other or with their father. Ross is a loner who channels all his alpha tendencies into solving dead-end crimes mostly involving serial killers. One day, he is shot while sniffing out the makeshift graveyard of a serial killer.

Our heroine Megan Sheridan is a geneticist. Ross summons her to a private session so that she can investigate his condition and find a way to cure his state. See, he doesn't want to sire children where the boys will lead miserable lives constantly feuding with other males and where the girls always die young. She finds him wounded, and ends up nursing him back to health. Ross doesn't want to be involved with Megan because his own mother suffered under the tyranny of his father. These kids should really one day stop using their parents' stupidity as an excuse to wallow in self-pity. Even as the serial killer starts threatening them, Megan faces the biggest threat of them all: the apparently inevitable dumbing down of a heroine in a romance novel.

Megan is a mess. She has as many overdone baggages as Ross, but the author never develops Megan into a more coherent character. As a result, Megan's a laundry list of neuroses: she lets her sister take advantage of her because she feels some vaguely described guilt over her sister's stupidity, her father beats everybody, yadda yadda yadda. But these traits never actually come together well. Likewise, Megan's attraction to Ross is ascribed to lupine mating instinct. Ms York never spends time developing Megan or her relationship with Ross, so I get really stupid scenes of Megan getting scared of Ross acting just like a ferocious wolf only to then exclaim that she loves him even when she is so scared but hey, she's still staying with him. Megan seems to be trapped in this relationship as much as Ross' mother seems to be trapped in her relationship with her husband. Megan has no personality other than "inexplicably selfless" and the romance seems to operate strictly on some pheromonal principle.

Ross is the better developed character and he is a nicely done tortured hero who, despite having a zillion stereotypical baggages, often stay strong and try to do the right thing. An intriguing character who seems to be always trying to balance the beast within with what's left of his humanity, he will be a really good hero in a better written book.

The suspense leaves much to be desired, as the serial killer delivers an anticlimax as opposed to a climatic scene. There are also some problems with pacing: the book is bogged down in the middle by Megan's endlessly selfless antics and too much tedious psychobabbles on lupine mating instincts. There are also some very contrived scenes that jar me from my reading: as usual, the responsibility for safe sex falls entirely on the hero (read: hero knocking his head after the sex scene for not taking precautions) - apparently even when the heroine is a medical doctor she takes it like a virtuous heroine and doesn't bring up sinful evil devices created by satanic liberals to encourage shameless promiscuity like condoms and birth control pills. Especially in this context when you have a really valid reason not to have children. I also have a minor quibble: the former medical researcher in me have some doubts about the author's interchangeably using the term "recessive inheritance" and "sex-linked inheritance", but hey, I can live with it, especially when Megan's research is as well developed as her personality.

Well written mythology and a nicely done tortured hero manage to salvage the serious problems in pace, heroine, and suspense. I hope the next books in this author's new paranormal romantic suspense series will take the fascinating premise Ms York has created in Killing Moon and improve on it. At the very least, this book is a nice appetizer before one faces the glut of shameless-Buffy-namedropping paranormals that are threatening to bring on the nausea in July and August.

Rating: 78


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