Hunter’s Moon
by C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
(Tor, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-76534913-2
****
This book squeaks under the wire to be the best surprise of 2004. It’s romantic, sexy, original, fast-paced and a huge pleasure to read. Happy New Year, from authors Adams and Clamp!

Tony Giodone is a hit man, raised by a mobster after his mother died. He is also a werewolf, ‘changed’ accidentally a year ago by a woman he was hired to kill. She meant to kill him, but Tony didn’t die and when he recovered, he found that he changed into a wolf during the three nights around the full moon.

Even in human form, Tony has extremely heightened senses, heals rapidly and, although he tries to control it, reacts swiftly and aggressively when angered. But there are problems associated with his new state and he is struggling to deal with them.

He still has to earn a living though, so he agrees to meet a new client, Sue Quentin. Tony’s a little bemused when he discovers that Sue wants him to kill…her. She can certainly afford his fee; she recently won a 268 million dollar lottery jackpot. Tony tells her she’s too high-profile to kill immediately – he might not be able to do the job for a year or more. Sue is desperate, so she buys a couple of hours of Tony’s time so she can explain the situation to him more fully. She believes that, if he understands, he’ll do the job.

Tony doesn’t normally care much about the ‘whys’ of his jobs, but he finds himself strangely intrigued by Sue, so he agrees and takes her to his hotel suite. There’s just one problem. He’s lost track of the dates, and he changes into a werewolf when she’s there, but Sue does not freak out.

Okay, I’m going to tell you something right off about this book, and I want you to promise that you won’t let it put you off. It’s written in the first person. From the point of view of the hero. But it totally works. I know people say they don’t really like first person (I’m usually one of them), and it was a bit of a shock when I realized at the beginning of the fourth paragraph that it was male first person, but I was already hooked.

It’s a terrific voice – honest, natural and compelling. Romance authors, generally, are not renowned for authentic male voices. There are wonderful exceptions, of course, but too often the male voices in romance are either cardboard stereotypes or some odd version of what the author thinks she wishes contemporary men sounded like. You know who I mean, characters who use words like ‘tresses’ or ‘locks’ when they’re talking about the heroine’s hair. Yeah, right.

But this voice just rolls along like someone actually talking to you. I don’t think there was a single mis-step in the whole book. It makes Tony a very real, three-dimensional character. This is wonderfully enhanced by the fact that, in spite of everything, Tony is not a particularly dark character. He knows who he is, and he accepts himself. Being an assassin is a job to him, consistent with the way he was raised. He’s not casual or sadistic about taking lives, and he has a strict code of honor. That may sound contradictory to you, but as a character he’s beautifully integrated and believable.

Sue is equally three dimensional, although perhaps slightly more problematic because her essential problem is that she’s a doormat. It works within the well-constructed story, but there was always a little voice in the back of my head wondering why someone with 268 million bucks couldn’t think of a way other than suicide to solve her problems. I loved the fact that Tony actually made her get therapy.

The plot, which develops far beyond the issue of whether or not Tony is going to kill Sue, accelerates like one of the sporty Mustangs the characters in this book like to drive. I wasn’t just a willing passenger, I was practically an abductee, the book was so easy to pick up and so difficult to put down (I probably should have read it after Christmas).

It’s good. You should read it.

-- Judi McKee


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