Rebecca Desjardin has a problem. She's a Canadian private eye, she's a Felis, an ex-member of the local (Montreal?) cat shape-shifting Pride who still can't make the complete change to her inner Cat, and she's in love with Brandon Hanover, a human, and an investigative reporter.
Rebecca is an ex-member of the local Pride, because, not being able to totally change, she was brutally expelled, and now twenty years later Rebecca has been dragged back into the Pride's politics, first with a murder of a local Felis member in "Blood Of The Pride", and now with "Claws Bared", a human who may have been killed by a Feris member.
Jess, the tough leader of the local Pride, is now contacting Rebecca for another job. It seems that a male stripper for the Penscatta, near Pittsburgh, PA, exotic bar "Cat's Meow" (!) has been murdered. And it was a pretty nasty death, he was mauled and torn. It's obvious that a Felis, not a human, has done the deed, and an outsider, with insider skills, is needed to investigate.
And how can Rebecca to say no to Jess when she asked Jess asks politely for a favor? Not Rebecca, and besides, Jess never asks politely, and arm twisting can only be by the most liberal measures be considered asking for a favor, and so, reluctantly, Rebecca is off to Penscotta to investigate another murder, and to get involved, in a foreign Pride's sticky politics.
The murdered man is Michael Hansa, and he was a favorite of both human and Felis females alike, although oddly enough, he didn't seem to be seeing anybody, either in the biblical or social, manner.
Again, Nantus doesn't skip on the mandatory urban fantasy examination of the local Felis society, unfortunately, Rebecca's still an outsider, and has to prove herself all over again. Oh yes, and she's single. So, young Felis stud and widower Trace Carson is appointed her shadow, to see that she tows the line, and eventually, and he has ideas about where he, and what he considers an available female Feris, should go in their relationship, even if the relationship is more in his mind than Rebecca's. Eventually, loneliness gets the better of Rebecca, and the situation between Trace and Rebecca will get a bit sticky, as with this second novel in the Rebecca Desjardin series, Rebecca is forced to make the decision, her life on the outside, or a life with a Pride. This decision is the one decision that will change Rebecca's life, and which will also be the fulcrum to an eventual clash between Trace, Brandon, and the local Pride, as Brandon makes the decision to fly down to Penscotta to help Rebecca. Making a sticky situation that much more sticky, as it is Felis custom to eliminate any, and all, of those who suspect who they are.
And once again, Sheryl Nantus takes a different tactic than most writers of urban fantasy, and, besides doing shape-shifting felines and their Pride politics proper; she also doesn't skip on the mystery and suspense elements of her novels. And while, we all tune in for the urban fantasy angle, and, let's be honest, for the strong female lead character, what keeps readers like me coming back for seconds and thirds is what is the backbone of this story. That is, the murder investigation, and the socio-political elements of what powers the plot; which involves one serious culture clash, as the murder brings to a head the clash that will occur when an outside situation comes into contact with an intentionally secretive society, or group, that runs itself by its own rules and laws, and how such a society would go to any length keep its own identity and secrets.
Thankfully, Nantus doesn't rush things, she takes her time to develop her story and she paces it well, but she doesn't overstay here welcome either with a four hundred, or more, page tome, she tells her story, develops her characters, ties up all the loose ends, and then she goes home to plan the next adventure of Rebecca. And the print is also nice sized, making Nantus' book easy to read.
On the positive side, I liked Nantus' examination of these micro-societies, and her look at this local Pride, and how different it was than Rebecca's, and how it tries to continue its seclusionary habits, while still continuing to be active in local government and politics.
Rebecca Desjardin is a hell of a strong character, although she comes across as a bit confused here, even though that doesn't stop her from letting loose with her inner snark. Not surprising, as for twenty years she's been ignored and ostracized by others like her, and now suddenly she is getting some grudging respect and attention; but will this go away if she decides to do what she considers what is right, instead of what would be considered politically expedite?
And this is what I liked about Rebecca, she's bullheaded enough to do what she considers right, even to her own detriment. With this, she's definitely in the classic pulp gumshoe mold. She's the symbolic hero fighting the establishment for justice for the underdog or the would-be-forgotten victim. I haven't read them, but based on what I've seen on the telly, Nantus' novels seem to be influenced by Kelly Armstrong's novels, and the television show "Grimm", and none of this is a bad thing.
On the negative side, I can believe in shape-shifters, and all that goes with this, for the sake of the novel's story, but that these hard-bodies can eat a steady stream of carbs and fat and never gain a pound? Yeah, I just don't believe it.
Also, just what cartoons have Nantus been watching? After about the three-quarter mark this novel starts developing some serious testosterone poisoning. After a while it seems that the primary men of this novel all seem to be acting like out-of-control horny bunnies while channeling rabid wolves. And while it may seem romantic for women to have men fight over them, wouldn't they be rolling their eyes if men constantly wanted women to have catfights over them? On the other hand, those of us that were disappointed by the failed soufflé that was the action of the last novel will get certainly get some more robust fare this time.
Oh, and if this were a male stripper bar, instead of being called the "Cat's Meow", shouldn't it have been called "The Barking Dog"?
These books, if you are interested, are now being reprinted in inexpensive paperback by Harlequin through their Carina Press imprint, and while it certainly helps, you don't necessarily have to read the first book in this series to enjoy this one.