Written by: Joe Hempel
Today the supernatural genre seem a bit over-saturated. With sparking vampires fighting werewolves for love, and the absolute disgusting humanization of these horrific creatures, it’s hard to sit down with a book like this and think that it will be any different.
So I sat down with this, and delved into a post Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, stretching from the cities to the bayous, hoping for the best from the watered down genre.
So is this another entry bastardizing the werewolf genre? Or did Eric Wilder create something worthy of reading? Keep reading to find out!
From the back: Though only forty miles south of New Orleans, Goose Island may as well be in another world. Five feet out of the shallow waters of south Louisiana’s wetlands, the secluded island is home of the Tracists Monastery. It’s also a resort frequented by actors, screenwriters, and powerful people in the burgeoning Louisiana film industry. When a heinous death occurs on the island, a movie producer hires Wyatt Thomas, the French Quarter’s favorite sleuth, to find out whom or what killed the victim. Was it wild dogs or a rougarou (Cajun werewolf) as the local voodoo woman tells Wyatt? His own life threatened, he must first survive the killer (or maybe killers), and the deadly hurricane taking direct aim at the monastery.
This is the third entry into the series featuring Wyatt Thomas. Having not read the previous two, (Big Easy, City of Spirits), I wasn’t sure if I would really understand what was going on. Fortunately this book can stand on its own without any prior knowledge of the other two books. I’m sure some characters could have a bit more meaning if you had, but for the most part, reading the first two are no necessary to this one.
The book takes place in New Orleans, where Wyatt is contacted by Quinlan Moore, a big time movie producer filming a movie in the area to investigate the death of the star of his movie, Rance Parker. The media and police say it was a heart-attack, but Quinlan thinks something else. Something much more sinister. Since Wyatt has experience in voodoo and the mysterious portions of New Orleans and the French Quarter, he taps him for the job of finding out what really happened.
It takes him to a place called “Goose Island.” It’s an old Monastery occupied by an old sect of Monks, called Tracists, but is also a kind of resort for the stars to stay.
Quickly he finds that Rance in fact didn’t have a heart attack, but was ripped limb from limb in a horrific fashion. And that is really where the book gets moving. It starts out as kind of a “locked door” mystery with everything being contained to Goose Island or at least the very outskirts. It does reach out a bit further when he enlists the help of his friend Tony Nicosia to do a bit of research of some names, but for the most part, you settle in on Goose Island and the immediate surroundings.
This is actually nice because Eric does a fantastic job of describing the settings. He’s from the area, and it really shows up in his vivid imagery. From how the alligators stalk their prey in the bayou to how the weather effects everything around them, you feel like you are there.
So during Wyatt’s time on Goose Island he heads to the Monastery and interviews the Brothers that live there. His excellent use of dialogue creates the tension of knowing something isn’t quite right, but not knowing exactly what that is. He is extremely deft at using subtle foreshadowing through his dialogue. And that’s another thing I would like to touch on. There is some physical descriptions of the characters, but for the most part, you get the descriptions of the characters through dialogue and action. To me, that is so much more effective, albeit probably a bit harder. You get a clear image in your mind of what these characters look like without having to read “he was about 6′ tall with a black robe and pale skin.” Instead, the descriptions come in the midst of conversations, or their body language. It makes the characters come alive that way.
During his conversations he hears tales of what’s called a rogarou, or Cajun Werewolf. Not really believing it he tries to explore other avenues until he gets caught up in a storm and saved by a group of people in a voodoo village, and is introduced to Mama Malaika. From her he learns that a hurricane is coming and that the eye of the storm is going to hit Goose Island directly.
Once the storm comes to land, the story picks up like the fury of the winds the hurricane provides. He finds that the rogarou are in fact real, and must not only figure out a way to avoid them, but must also find a way to survive the storm itself!
With the help of his partner, he was able to find someone that may be able to help, so during the storm they enlist his help and try to figure this out once and for all, either killing the rogarou or saving them from their affliction.
The Bottom Line: The story is fast paced, the characters pop out of the page in a lively manner, the locations are familiar enough to get a clear image, but exotic enough that you don’t feel like you’ve been there and done that.
Thankfully, Eric Wilder has created a werewolf story that is engaging, it’s horrific, and it’s mysterious. These creatures are dangerous, they are evil; they live for the hunt and the thrill of the kill. Not only that, but the how and why are different than your typical werewolf story.
This truly is a genre defying book. I’m not quite sure what to classify this as. At its heart, it’s a whodunnit. And it’s treated as such, but it has very horrific imagery with the werewolves. Not necessarily with a lot of blood and gore, but with the extreme amount of suspense he creates.
The book isn’t without its problems though. For more than a handful of occasions, there were no quotation marks leading into dialogue. That sort of thing wasn’t too big of a deal. The bigger issue for me, and really pulled me out of the story was the over-use of the way dialogue was presented.
For instance, you will see this type of line what felt like hundreds of times in this book: She smiled and nodded as I said. Or, I looked down as she said. For some reason I didn’t like the harsh perspective change. And for it to happen over and over and over again, was really off-putting.
Those two things may not put you off from reading it as much as me, and I hope it doesn’t. This book is good. I will end up going back and reading the other books and visiting Eric Wilder’s version of New Orleans with Wyatt Thomas again.