REVIEW: Night Life by Caitlin Kittredge
Dear Ms. Kittredge,
I was introduced to your writing by your short story, “Newlydeads”, in My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon. While that story didn’t work as well for me as I’d hoped, I still looked forward to your first novel. Sometimes short stories aren’t the best indicators of good novelists and since Night Life was set in a different world from that of your Black London stories, I hoped I’d enjoy it more.
Night Life takes place in Nocturne City, a dark and gritty place where magic and the supernatural co-exist with the mundane. Luna Wilder works as a detective — with one difference. In addition to being a woman in a male-dominated field, she’s a werewolf. Made into one against her will when she was just fifteen, Luna fled the man who changed her and now lives as an Insoli: a werewolf with no pack, no rank, and no respect. Luna has kept the fact she’s a werewolf a secret from her human co-workers but she finds it more difficult to control her shapeshifting as the full moon approaches.
Luna’s latest case involves investigating a string of ritualistic murders where the victims are prostitutes and often undocumented immigrants. Two things distinguish this case, however. First of all, the latest victim was a werewolf. And secondly, the manner in which the murders are executed eerily resemble a string of murders that took place several decades before. Matters become even more complicated when Luna is recruited to find the District Attorney’s missing son and finds herself attracted to Dmitri Sandovsky, alpha of Nocturne City’s resident werewolf pack and the murders’ prime suspect.
I love the Nocturne City setting. It has the right balance of grit and darkness I enjoy in urban fantasy and wish to see more of. The way the various places were described, especially in the forsaken area called Ghosttown, were wonderful and definitely set this book apart for me when compared to its counterparts in the genre.
The mystery plot was also well done. It moves along at a fast clip and not once does the pacing ever falter or drag. I admit I correctly identified the main antagonist the moment he appeared but that didn’t bother me. I enjoyed reading to discover if my suspicions were correct and how exactly everything tied together.
What didn’t work for me quite as well were the actual characters. Their reactions and emotions never quite rang true for me, and sometimes that made it hard to believe in the choices they made and actions they pursued. I recall having similar difficulties with the characters in “Newlydeads,” so perhaps this is simply a case of author-reader mismatch. While I liked the way Luna obsessively guarded her independence, at times I found her so abrasive and reckless, I couldn’t feel any sympathy when she got into trouble. I like flawed characters, but I thought she was a little too stupid to be one of the best detectives on Nocturne City’s police force given some of the decisions she makes over the course of her investigation.
This problem also fed into how I viewed the relationships between the characters. While Luna’s relationships with her co-workers worked well for me for the most part, I had a harder time buying her more personal ones. I simply could not buy into the attraction between Luna and Dmitri. Half the time, I wasn’t sure what Dmitri saw in Luna. His lover had just been brutally murdered and her death struck him hard to the point of making him emotionally unstable so for him to suddenly switch affections to Luna made me question his character and just how in love he actually had been. Maybe that’s just me.
While I don’t feel Night Life is a groundbreaking entry into the genre of urban fantasy, I’m curious to see what will happen to Luna next. I do want to note, however, that this is a fantasy, so readers should not go in expecting an HEA or even an HFN for our heroine. B-
This book can be purchased in mass market. No ebook format.