Sunday, 11 October 2015

Review: Blue Moon by Pol McShane

Sometimes taking a risk has its rewards. I usually take care to only download Kindle samples of books that have a respectable number of reviews and I especially avoid books that have only a handful of reviews and they are all five star ones. However, the description of Pol McShane's Blue Moon awakened my interest and I decided to give it a try despite the warning signs. And I'm glad I did: it is clearly one of the better werewolf stories I've read.

The story's protagonist is Adam Keel, who works at a Boston mental institution. He's gained a reputation as a man who cares for his patients and has managed to open up patients with whom other doctors have failed. Then, one day, he is assigned to a new patient: John Spier is a serial killer known for having half-eaten his victims. He claims that he is innocent to these crimes because he is actually a werewolf. To Adam's horror, John soon tells him that he is fated to continue the bloodline and become a werewolf himself. John begins to prepare Adam for his upcoming transformation.

It is instantly clear that the writer is familiar with the human condition and the work at mental institutions. He describes patients and their tragedies believably and both Adam and John are fully developed characters with their own pasts, fears and hopes. Early on in the story, Adam is falling in love with one of his patients and wrestles with his conscience on how to handle the situation, knowing that he will hurt the woman whatever he decides to do. John, on the other hand, is a man who's more or less given up on his life and looks forward to his death.

The concept of werewolf is also different from the usual one: there can only be a single werewolf at a time. As the werewolf spirit leaves one body and enters the next, it will kill its previous host, but takes his soul and all his memories with it. They are quadruped creatures, not unlike large wolves, and their mind will take the host over completely when they are driven by their hunger to kill.

The writing was very good, but there were some formatting quirks in my Kindle copy that bothered me, such as the persistent separation of the three periods that make up an ellipsis into groups of 2+1. Another quirk was that interrupted speech was often marked (or, rather, not marked) with a single period that made it look like a regular finished sentence. Hopefully these (and a couple of other typos that I reported) will be fixed in future updates.

Overall, the novel is a compelling read and it mixes a hefty dose of human drama with classic werewolf horror. It is a must-read for any genre enthusiast.