Said book, Nocturnal Serenade, is the continuing story of young police lieutenant Mackenzie Santos and her dual role as both protector of the people (Dallas Police Department) and as a shape shifter (a jaguar, in fact, which is really cool). We reviewed Nocturnal Origins awhile back, and are very glad to be back in the universe of Mackenzie Santos.
The book starts with a mysterious man stalking an unknown woman from high in a tree. Unfortunately for our stalker, he is terrified of heights and really doesn’t want to be there. He fears the person who tasked him with watching the woman more, though, so he stays in the tree, his fear of the mysterious Novacek overwhelming his fear of heights. A little slow here (hey, I wanted to read about the shape shifting police detective, not some pervert hanging in a tree…) but it does offer a nice set piece to begin the crawl through the underbelly of shape shifter society. We soon discover that Mackenzie Santos’ mother is the person being stalked and blackmailed by the mysterious Novacek, because while she knows her daughter is now a shape shifter (thanks to the blackmailer), her rocky relationship with her daughter had driven a rift between them so wide that neither can or will bridge it.
Mackenzie is busy arriving at a crime scene, investigating a supposed overdose. Immediately the police recognize that something is up and that it might not be an overdose at all but a murder. Mackenzie, sensing that her newish partner (fellow shapeshifter Pat, a cougar) is ready for a challenge, lets her take the lead in the investigation. Pat is shocked and a bit nervous but soon takes control of the scene. It’s a good thing, too, because soon Pat finds a card for Mackenzie’s mother during their search of the murder scene. Almost as though someone wanted it to be found…
One of the best parts of the series thus far is the author’s strict following of police procedure. While it may seem dull, most authors don’t go into the amount of research needed for something to really work with the story. And Mackenzie, shape shifter or no, is a fine cop. That means that she follows procedure, and the reader can almost feel Mackenzie leaning out of the pages of the book and insisting that the reader must understand why the investigating of the scene is so important. Too often do authors (like James Patterson) ignore or invent procedure which would lead to every single bit of evidence being thrown out of court (especially the stuff in the Alex Cross novels). Nocturnal Serenade doesn’t run the risk of this, instead focusing on procedure, character development and a great story.
However, if there is one complaint, it’s that the author, for consecutive novels, has made the villain out to be the ultimate bad guy, only to be thwarted because he waits too long or trusts the wrong person. It worked in the first novel, not so much in the second – because, I believe, so much was put into the bad guy being the boogeyman in the second book as compared to the first. Not spoiling the plot any, but I kind of want to see a bad guy’s plans get a little further along (like, for example, bordering on the precipice before the heroine rushes in and saves the day) before his or her plans come crashing down around them. I felt as though the ending of the second book was a bit forced, but not necessarily in a bad way. A minor quibble, I’ll admit, but it’s still a quibble.
This book, like its predecessor, is a definite must-buy. It’s a good, solid read.
–Reviewed by Jason