Author: Andrea Speed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Roan McKichan, Paris Lehane
POV: 3rd Person
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Cover Rating: 4
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.
The metaphor is alive and well and living within the pages of Andrea Speed’s Infected: Prey, a story, or set of stories, in this case, in which the motifs of prejudice, intolerance, and fear of the extraordinary are employed to narrate the lives and trials of Roan McKichan and Paris Lehane.
Roan is a virus child, born infected with the disease that some see as a divine gift, and others see as an unnatural curse. Roan is two-natured, human for all but five days out of every month when, during his viral cycle, he becomes a lion, the king of the urban jungle. He’s an ex-cop with an uncanny sense of smell and a preternatural instinct for divining clues, and Roan uses those skills as a private detective, at times liaising with the police to help solve kitty crimes, those crimes that involve both perpetrators and victims within the infected community.
The cat virus is a blood-borne disease, spread by exposure to the blood of those contaminated by the infection. The infected are treated with caution at best and outright derision at worst; they are treated as objects of infatuation by the Church of the Divine Transformation and as abominations by the fanatical group Humanity First. The infected are representative of every group who has ever been on the receiving end of discrimination, and it’s this element that is a central theme of the book.
Paris is Roan’s partner, both personally and in the detective business. Paris is an infected, not born but made. He’s a rare tiger shifter known as the suicide cat—unique because the tiger strain rarely ever allows for survival of the transition. Paris is Roan’s perfect counterpart, and together they complement each other fully; where Roan lacks certain social and people skills, Paris exudes charm and confidence, and they each support the other in perfect balance.
While I would hesitate to categorize this book as a romance, there is an undeniably romantic aspect to the deeply loving and committed relationship between the two characters. Rather than employing overt sexuality, Andrea Speed has done an exceptional job of building a deeply involved relationship between Roan and Paris, emphasizing the subtle, everyday intimacies that occur between a couple who each are the other’s perfect mate. They are fully realized, entirely engaging, and all consuming. It is their bond with each other that provides for much of the emotional connection between the reader and the story; when Roan begins to fear that he is losing his humanity to his beast, believing that he is becoming nothing more than his disease, he tells Paris, “I wonder if I wanted you, or if it wanted the tiger.” Perhaps the nature of the beast requires both and this is a question that, in the end, needn’t be answered.
Infected: Prey is a witty, complex, and intelligent book set in the contemporary but with an other-worldly atmosphere. Filled with mystery, suspense, and plenty of dramatic tension, Andrea Speed has crafted a story that straddles the line between urban fantasy and crime fiction, with outstanding results. I’ve become entirely captivated by this world and its characters, making December 17th—the release date for Infected: Bloodlines—seem aggravatingly far off.
Reviewed By: Lisa