Set in modern-day East Coast US, ‘Cowboy’ Zach Adams is a good cop in a bad situation. His boss thinks his partner, ‘Broadway ‘Joe Martin Goulart is crooked and wants Zach to keep an eye out and report back. Meanwhile. Zach and the force are after a European gangster, Dominic Abend, after having his IDed at a brutal murder scene. Pretty soon, Zach is tracking down the legends surrounding a 16th century European dagger. Alas, his trip to Germany to meet with the historian Gretchen Dankle leads him into a grove of trees under a full moon where he is mauled by a beast. He barely makes it home alive. Once there, he has his own secrets to contend with.
This is foremost a cop story. Zach is able to go into hyperfocus from time to time in which he can identify small details or make the connections between obscure dots. He and his wife, Grace, come from a conservative town in Texas (hence the Cowboy nickname). Their relationship brings plenty of Christian and/or spirituality questions to the story line. Once Zach steps over the line into this supernatural world of werewolves and other beings, he has this small internal struggle with his religious upbringing. Meanwhile, he still has a job to do and there are plenty of things stepping in his way, hindering him.
The werewolf aspect of this story has hints from the beginning but doesn’t rear it’s canine head until perhaps a third of the way into the book. This story is much more about the man dealing with this animalistic, powerful being than about the werewolf. Don’t expect any werewolf sexytimes from this book! Personally, I really enjoyed that this tale stayed a cop story first and foremost, and a paranormal beastie story second (or third if you count all the Christian drama as the second theme).
Martin Goulart, Zach’s partner, is an interesting character. First, he’s an ass. He is sexist and racist and he’s OK with it and doesn’t bother to hide it. Some of the things he says when it’s just him and Zach make me wonder why Zach never smacks the guy upside the head. And yet, he is a decent cop, good at what he does. Still, when Zach’s boss first approaches him with her suspicions that Martin has gone crooked, Zach blows it off as yet another female employee being pissed at Martin for his loud mouth. I think we have all known people like Martin and have had to deal with them.
And that leads me to talking about the women. Grace is the perfect, religious wife, being of a forgiving and Godly nature. When she talked, the religious theme of the story became all encompassing and was a little irksome to me. While I recognize that is Grace’s character, it did come off pretty thick and made me want to fast forward the story. Gretchen Dankle was the most interesting, being a catalyst for the plot. However, her role is pretty short. Zach’s boss comes off as a fire-breathing bitch cardboard character. Later on, there is a reporter named Imogen Storm. She had plenty of potential at first, but quickly fell into over-used roles of easy lay and damsel in distress. There’s one female bad guy who we see briefly and then a crazed, stalkerish girlfriend too. None of the ladies ever get together to have a chat, though occasionally one lady does talk about the other. Dankle and Storm are the only two that really contribute to the plot, and in Storm’s case that is by being the damsel in distress.
There is a Christian religious theme that runs through this novel. First, the main character is Christian and we see everything through his eyes. Most of the time, this did not bother me because it was about his world view and ideas of right and wrong. However, when he thinks of his ultra-conservative wife Grace, or chats with her, the religious theme came across really strongly. The first few times, I was OK with it as it was establishing Grace’s character and Zach’s world views. But this persisted at regular intervals throughout the book and became a bit much for me. I wanted more story and less preaching.
Over all, I really loved that this started off and stayed a cop solving the murder story. Zach was an interesting character because he had several conflicts going on. It was very interesting to see this blend of modern crime and ancient lore. The female characters needed some work, obviously, and I could have done without the conservative religious drivel. Still, if the author announced a sequel, I would be interested in giving it a listen.
Narration: This book was narrated by the author and he did a really good job. He had distinct voices for each character. He did both regional and foreign accents quite believably. I am always a little concerned when an author chooses to narrate their own works, but there was no need for concern here. Klavan did a professional job of it.