(Nocturne City, book 3)

Night Life

Pure Blood

Second Skin
by Caitlin Kittredge
(St. Martin's, $6.99, R for violence) ISBN 978-0312948313
Nearly as compelling as its predecessor, Second Skin is the third book in Kittredge's Nocturne City series, which follows werewolf cop Luna Wilder.  In her latest adventure, Luna has been busted down to being an officer on the SWAT team and is no longer even welcome in the Homicide division. Needless to say, when her least favorite detective, David Bryson, asks for her help on a multiple homicide, she tells him to take a hike (or something more Luna-like and less polite). However, when Bryson explains the reason for his panic, Luna relents.

What's up is this: werewolves are being brutally slain, their blood drained and their hearts -though there are no injuries to indicate it - stolen. That the wolves won't cooperate with Bryson doesn't surprise Luna in the slightest.  As she points out to him, though, since she's a rogue werewolf herself, they're even less likely to bow to her.

Even if she hadn't suspected otherwise, when three of the dead werewolves jump off the autopsy tables to attack, Luna knows the killer isn't human. In fact, she quickly comes to realize that, despite rumors that they are merely myth, her culprit is probably a Wendigo. Crazy boyfriend, former Redback pack leader Dmitri Sandovsky, reluctantly confirms this, even as he mentally and emotionally batters Luna for getting involved in a case that will likely get her killed.

In Second Skin, Luna is unable to put her problems with Dmitri aside, and they frequently come to the forefront, often to the embarrassment of the people around them. These problems may help explain why Luna finds herself so charmed by the head of the local Wendigo pack, Lucas Kennuka.  When Lucas discovers that his dead brother was involved in whatever mayhem being caused by the rogues, Lucas reluctantly agrees to help Luna.

Hunting a Wendigo without getting killed is hard enough, but every time Luna turns around there's another twist in the case. In fact, towards the end, things get so hectic some readers may finish the novel a little confused. Not to worry: all the details are there, a few paragraphs may require re-reading.

The beauty to Kittredge's stories are the truth behind the characters.  Yes, the Nocturne City series is a paranormal fantasy.  However, the characters all suffer through their own very human (although most are not so much human) crises.  Naturally, since the story is told in the first person from Luna's perspective, most of our perception is hers. However, she has very open eyes.  Dmitri's struggles, not only with his disease but with his anger issues, how torn cousin Sunny is between Luna and their grandmother, and even some details of incidental characters are made important but not imposing.

Luna herself is a heavily flawed character, not always at ease with her own skin though she tries valiantly.  Readers may find that they do not always like her and will definitely question some of her decisions.  The lack of perfection is refreshing, even as the author's talent at creating ambience will put you in the disturbing places in which our heroine finds herself.

Though even by this third novel Kittrege has not gotten a good grasp on organization, most readers will not have trouble following the numerous plotlines.  Some things do pop up from previous novels, but if those haven't been read or the details are simply forgotten, but a lack from what isn't rehashed in this novel won't harm the reading of it.

All in all, as was also indicated in the previous review, Kittredge's Nocturne City series is well worth reading and seems only to gain momentum as it moves along.  Second Skin, with its creepy crimes and more personal insights into Luna's life, will certainly please fans and newcomers alike.

--Sarrah Knight

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