Thursday, June 07, 2007

Crescent Moon - Lori Handeland

Crescent Moon
A Nightcreature Novel #4
Lori Handeland
St. Martin’s


Diana Malone is a cryptozoologist, which means that she should be on the hunt for a previously unknown animal. Thanks to a promise she made to her dying husband four years ago, though, she spends her time investigating sightings of possibly legendary creatures. When she gets a call from Frank Trallient at 3 am, asking her to travel to New Orleans to investigate the possibility of a werewolf, she’s receptive to the idea. In fact, she’s on a plane the next morning and standing next to a bayou by the following evening.

Several people have been killed over the years in the same general area of apparent animal attacks. Not enough to raise an alarm, but enough for Frank to take notice, and enough for Diana to detect a pattern. The killings occur during the crescent moon. She meets her guide next to the swamp in question, but prefers to go searching at night, when the animal is supposedly active. In the meantime, she investigates a rundown and abandoned mansion, owned by the Ruelle family. Local legend has it that the family was cursed generations ago, although details are sketchy.

That evening, Diana and her guide venture into the swamp. While out of her sight, her guide died, the victim of a large animal. As everyone continues to tell her, there are no wolves in Louisiana. But Diana is fairly certain that’s what she heard. And there’s the mystery of Adam Ruelle, last surviving member of his family. Many locals believe that he’s dead, but Diana knows the man she met in the swamp after the death of her guide was no phantom. Who is he, really? What secrets is he hiding? And how is it that Diana saw his face in a dream before she ever saw him in person?

The character of Diana is an interesting one: four years after his death, she still keenly feels the loss of her husband and best friend. She’s working on getting her PhD, but specializing in chasing Bigfoot-like creatures doesn’t present her with many opportunities for publication. She understands that her promise may be stopping her from living her life, but she feels bound by it. But even with all of that, she’s no shrinking violet; she’s a very capable and intelligent woman.

While this is part of a series, it works very well as a stand-alone novel. I haven’t read the previous books (although I plan to, as soon as possible) and had no problems with this one. The setting is appropriately creepy. It doesn’t get much more atmospheric than a moldering ruin of a mansion set next to a New Orleans swamp. The interaction between Diana and Adam is very natural and believable. The paranormal elements are done very well. If you’re a fan of the genre, and having discovered this author yet, this is a great place to start.

Rating: 8
February 2006
ISBN# 0-312-93848-9 (paperback)


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