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Friday, December 24, 2010

Review: Infected: Prey by Andrea Speed

Andrea Speed's Infected: Prey is a hard-boiled detective book with were-cats. It's very, wonderfully traditional in the detective-book sense, in that the lead, Roan McKichan, is a cynical ex-cop who will follow the clues wherever they lead, no matter what seediness he uncovers. Like most such detectives, Roan has the right to move through all worlds, from the cop world he used to inhabit, to the tony neighborhood where his new, wealthy clients yearn for the return of their missing son, to the dance clubs where most of the son's friends hang out. So it's a detective story-- the romance stems from a committed relationship Roan is in already. And oh yeah, Speed's world features a community (they don't like the word) of people who can change into cats. Oh, and oh yeah, Roan and partner Paris are gay. The book takes their relationship, and the various tensions and feelings of inadequacy between tough, jaded Roan and beautiful, funny Paris, seriously. But this is a detective book, not a romance, so if you're looking for erotica, this is not your book.

Andrea Speed's world of cat-people is riveting and full of detail. There are a couple of kinds of "Infected"-- those who are born with the cat virus, and those who catch it. The transformation of man into tiger, lion, or cougar is painful and wrenching, and some of Speed's best writing comes in the passages where Roan has to lock up his partner Paris so that Paris can spend an hour painfully changing, and then remain locked up. These are beautiful, heartfelt passages, and Speed is good at capturing the sensitivity in Roan, outwardly a constant wisenheimer. Speed has built her world out with all the rules it needs, down to laws to keep the Infected in check (they *have* to lock themselves up) to wacko churches that cater to teens who want to become infected. Neat stuff.

Infected: Prey as collected in paperback is actually two Perry-Mason-length novellas, which is nice, because you can read a whole story and then move the the next one. As I look at my shelf, the true hard-boiled detective stories, your Saints and Hammers and Marlowes, were thin and efficient volumes, and would have stayed that way if not for the dawn of enormous Patricia Cornwell-style mega-thrillers. Stories like this that focus on a private eye and the cast of characters that surround him fit the novella length perfectly and also fit perfectly into the rhythms of TV drama series, which INFECTED could easily be.

I enjoyed entering this world and can't wait to read more of it.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Thanks for the review, Jason.

    You know, this story started off as serial fiction, so I sort of wrote it as a prose television series. (A good television series, mind you.) Glad you noticed.

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