Title: Infected: Prey
Author: Andrea Speed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M Urban fantasy, mystery
Length: 376 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
Absorbing urban fantasy with incredible world building and engaging characters.
In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.
The murder of a former cop draws Roan into an odd case where an unidentifiable species of cat appears to be showing an unusual level of intelligence. He juggles that with trying to find a missing teenage boy, who, unbeknownst to his parents, was “cat” obsessed. And when someone is brutally murdering infecteds, Eli Winters, leader of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the killer before he closes in on Eli.
Working the crimes will lead Roan through a maze of hate, personal grudges, and mortal danger. With help from his tiger-strain infected partner, Paris Lehane, he does his best to survive in a world that hates and fears their kind… and occasionally worships them.
Infected: Prey is a masterful urban fantasy that effortlessly weaves in flawless world building with mystery and an affecting relationship between the two leads, lovers Roan and Paris. From the first page I was drawn into the story and were it not for a couple of flaws, this would have been a beyond excellent read.
The novel is split into two stories, linked by the setting and the characters of Roan and Paris. Roan is a ‘virus child’, born with the cat virus which means that for 5 days out of each month he changes into a big cat at sunset until sunrise. In Roan’s case the cat is a lion. Paris also has the cat virus, but unlike Roan he was infected during his time at college. Paris is a tiger, the most deadly cat and the the most deadly strain of the virus. The two men have been lovers for some time after Roan ‘rescued’ Paris, and now work together as private detectives with Roan as the investigator and Paris as his assistant. The first story follows that of a set of murders, attributed to ‘cats’, and how that links with a missing college student who Roan is investigating. The second story follows Roan as he is employed by the leader of a cat cult to find out who is sending death threats and how this links with a spate of murdered young people who all have the cat virus.
The world building throughout the story was the book’s greatest positive feature. The sheer breadth and complexity of the cat virus, its many forms, how it works, society’s reaction and views towards the infected and the personal feelings of Roan and Paris about their infection was covered in detail, but so skillfully interwoven throughout the main story that I never felt that I was overwhelmed with information or that everything was dumped on me at once. I also liked that the cat virus is just so far removed from some of the shifter romances usually found in paranormal books. There’s nothing romantic about these cats and no sentience. Once an infected person shifts, they become a big cat in all its cold-hearted glory. Thus quite a lot of the book deals with the laws which govern the infected people and how crime is governed both against the infected and to those who are attacked by the cats they shift into. I found it all quite fascinating, especially as much of the information is given by the droll Roan.
The second positive in the book is in the characterisation of Roan and Paris. Two very different men who strangely complement each other. Roan is an ex-cop, now private investigator who is all dour honesty and has a world weary tone of voice and attitude which reminded me of those 1940s detectives – and in fact Roan likes to liken himself to detectives such as Sam Spade in a very tongue in cheek manner. Roan also has a bone dry sense of humour which I found greatly appealing, and a weary acceptance of his life as a virus child. Added to this is the very male trait of ignoring any personal problems which may crop up in favour of burying himself in work. Paris, on the other hand, is handsome and charming, a born manipulator who uses this to good effect. The scenes where the two men discuss the case, the banter and the fondness between them were some of the best scenes in the book. The romance between them is shown through their thoughts for one another and the love which shines through their interactions. The physical side to their relationship happens firmly behind closed doors, and apart from the odd lustful look and teasing comment, these men keep that part of their life private from the reader. This worked well within the context of the story because the focus really is on the mystery, and on Roan’s attempts to solve the case.
There were a couple of negative points: Firstly the writing is rather dense at times, with the narrator drifting off into thought for paragraphs at a time. Although much of what they are thinking about is adding to the world-building or giving important background information on the characters, there were a few time where I felt that a bit of pruning wouldn’t have gone amiss. Some of these passages could have been streamlined which would have made the prose and the story as a whole tighter, especially as these passages slowed the pace of the story almost to a standstill. A second negative point is that the overall tone of the book is very sombre, and whilst this fitted in with the murder-mystery story most of the time, I found it rather heavy-going. The book does not end on a happy note, although both the mysteries are concluded satisfactorily, and those readers looking for at least a HFN, may be disappointed. I finished the book almost in tears.
Overall, this story was addictive and compelling. If you like urban fantasy and mystery novels then this book is an absolute must. I’m hoping that there will be more books in this series as the world building is too good to stick only to one book.