Dime Store Magic

Broken by Kelley Armstrong
(Bantam, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-58818-4
Armstrong brings back the heroine that launched her Women Of The Otherworld series, and this time werewolf Elena Michaels is eating and hunting for two.

Elena is the only known female werewolf, which makes her an oddity, and puts her in harm’s way on a fairly regular basis. So now that she is pregnant, her mate, Clay, and Pack leader, Jeremy, are hovering over her like two mother hens. They are driving her crazy and cabin fever has set in. So when she gets a call from half-demon Xavier Reese about a favor she owes him, she says yes.

Xavier has a buyer who is interested in the infamous “From Hell” letter reportedly written by Jack The Ripper. While many reported Ripper letters are considered fakes, the “From Hell” letter carries some weight has it was sent in a box with a human kidney. Sometime over the next 100 years, the letter turned up missing, and Xavier just happens to know where it is – Toronto. There’s a catch though. A sorcerer owns the letter, who in turn cast a spell on it. It’s impossible for a human to steal it. Enter the werewolf.

The men in Elena’s life are not terribly excited by this proposal, but in exchange for their theft of the letter, Xavier will give them the location of a “mutt” (a non-Pack werewolf hunting humans) they’ve been trying to track. Information is exchanged, the mutt disposed of, and soon Elena, Clay and Jeremy are making their way to Toronto.

Stealing the letter turns out to be a fairly easy affair. It’s what happens after they steal it when the real fun begins. The “From Hell” letter is actually the key to a dimensional portal that Elena unwittingly opens. Soon civilians are going missing, and Elena has two very persistent zombies chasing her around the city. However it’s when Victorian era diseases and a murdering psychopath start plaguing the city that they realize how serious the problem is. But how to close the portal? Especially when it appears that the very pregnant Elena is the key?

What’s nice about Armstrong’s series is that she keeps it all loosely connected. That being said, this is the third book to feature Elena and Clay. There is quite a bit of relationship baggage plaguing these two, and to say their share a history together is an understatement. The author hints at some of this, but doesn’t delve into the minutia of it. Readers wanting all of the nitty-gritty aren’t going to find it here. That said, this book does stand-alone to a certain extent, and readers shouldn’t be lost. However, they just aren’t going to have the same reading experience as those who have read the first two books, Bitten and Stolen.

The plot here is rather imaginative, with the author mining the rich history and fascination with Jack The Ripper. She gives the details a healthy supernatural spin, and Elena and crew are soon contacting other supernaturals that may shed some light on how they can close a dimensional portal.

The violence level is rather sedate, with only a few squirm-inducing moments – most involving decomposing zombies and rampaging rats. That said, it’s fairly tame stuff that shouldn’t shock anyone use to reading romantic suspense or mystery novels. Elena spends the entire novel pregnant, and given her delicate nature, and the complete unknown of how a werewolf pregnancy works (she is the only one after all), the sensuality level is also rather tame. Clay spends this novel fiercely protecting Elena, while trying his best to not hold her back.

This is an engaging entry to highly readable series. Armstrong continues to write strong female leads, and even introduces a new one – a vampire named Zoë who has a lot of fun potential. Elena continues to be strong – content and ready to move on to a new phase in her life. Readers who became so engaged with her in the first two novels will certainly enjoy this return visit.

--Wendy Crutcher

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