Tour’s Books Blog

May 26, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Lycan Instinct by Brandi Broughton

I’ve been hunting around looking for an interesting werewolf series that isn’t like every other series out there. I’d tried a couple of books from Cobblestone Press, one of the smaller ebook independent publishers out there, and found some that were decent derivatives, and then I saw Lycan Instinct, it showed that it was an EEPI Award nominee, so I figured I’d give it a try. This full length novel was quite unusual. No living in isolated places. No, overwhelming Alpha male dominance. The fact that Raphael Stone and his brothers Gabriel and Lucian are Lycans and all alphas actually has limited impact on their behavior. They are far more fully integrated into human society than usual and other pack members are conspicuous by their absence. Mostly they act like any other human brothers. This is less a werewolf story than it is a mainstream mystery novel with a little romance with a guy that happens to be a werewolf rather than a Spec Ops guy, the popular hero protagonist these days.

Lycan Instinct opens with a murdered body in a Chicago alleyway, a naked man apparently mauled by large dogs. There’s not enough blood for it to be the site of the murder, it was a body dump. Detectives Mackenzie Lyon and Steve Cooper will have to wait to see if his prints are in the system because the face is mauled past recognition. They did have one hint – a mark on the left hand where a wedding ring had obviously been. Mac is more troubled than she wants her partner to know because her father was killed by a mountain lion and she herself had been badly injured in the attack. Even as an adult she fears animals, especially cats. The owner of the neighboring warehouse is billionaire Rafael Stone, CEO of Stone Corporation and a man famous for his interest in and study of wolves at the Lykos Institute run by his scientist brother Gabriel.

Mac never let a little thing like a man being head of huge corporation stop her from getting an interview and she sneaks into Rafe’s limo while a meter maid friend hassles his driver for double parking. Rafe’s reaction is a little odd, but his immediate offer of the services of the Lykos Institute was without hesitation. The case goes big time when the body is identified as a state legislator Victor Robinson – a man who argued with Rafe at a fundraising dinner the night he disappeared. And it seems the man was shot before he was mauled.

Circumstantial evidence begins to pile up pointing to the Stone family. Cooper doesn’t like the obvious personal interest that Rafe has in Mac. Mac struggles to keep her emotional and intellectual distance from Rafe, a man she’s deeply attracted to and very suspicious of at the same time. It gets worse when a second mauled body is found in a park with the same tooth marks. Once again, the trail leads back to Stone Corp and Rafe because the victim, Carl Shumaker, was a lead programmer on new gambling security software for the corporation and had been fired the day before. He was caught trying to embezzle money to pay his gambling debts. The case attracts her ex-boyfriend, Kenneth Hahn, an ambitious prosecutor, like blood attracts a shark.

This time search warrants are served on both the Lykos Institute and Rafe’s home for data and DNA samples from his wolves. The best part is when Gabe, who had been naked when Mac first called at the house went wolf – called ‘G’ – and then had to be a wolf again for the blood samples. This time Gabe makes friends with Mac and, like any sensible male, convinced her to pet his tummy, infuriating Rafe.

Despite the mounting circumstantial evidence against Rafe, the ties between Carl’s loan shark and a known crime boss draw. Coop and Mac interview the Mafia crime boss and suddenly the loan shark is found murdered within 2 days. Mac doubts Rafe’s guilt, but remains torn, afraid her attraction is affecting her work, but unwilling to let the case go.

Rafe convinces her to have dinner with him and they barely start the wine when Hahn sees them and she decides having dinner with her #1 suspect, is an awful idea. She runs for a cab and gets an anonymous tip to go to a warehouse. Rafe gets in the cab with her and finally he gives in – sort of – and she’s dropped back at the station to head out to the warehouse alone. Now this part makes no sense. There isn’t a cop alive that would do such a stupid thing – except on TV. It’s just one of many things that makes Mac’s believability as a cop questionable and makes me think the author developed her character from the CSI shows more than real cops.

Rafe follows her and in saving her life gets shot and shifts to his wolf form to save his own life. In wolf form he is also telepathic and convinces her it really is him. She hides him in her car. Now she knows the big secret of the existence of the Lycan race. Rafe nearly gets caught at her apartment the next morning but shifts to wolf before Cooper catches him.

Their affair is untenable and in the end, Mac must make a choice between giving Rafe an alibi and risking the job she always wanted, or letting him go on being a suspect. She does the right thing, gets suspended and still solves the crime. This is one of those stories with a double ending and the ultimate mastermind could be figured out by any mystery fan, despite the fact that there was a dearth of clues.

Lycan Instinct lacked the necessary intensity to make it a romantic suspense novel and was missing the depth of character needed to carry off a true police procedural mystery, but had a decent plot for a ‘mystery lite’ novel. It suffered far too many procedural and technical deficiencies in the police investigation portion to make Mac believable as a cop – except maybe a TV cop, but that’s typical of the ‘cop lite’ genre. The romance wasn’t strong enough to carry the book, so it’s best to think of this in terms of a quirky mystery with werewolves. The story had a strong beginning, a moderate ending with a twist and an average middle. It doesn’t have the light-hearted tone of the typical amateur sleuth novels that are so popular, but it also lacks the dark edges and stark characters of a hard core mystery, despite the rather gruesome killing that opens the book. It does mine that middle ground so familiar to fans of TV shows like CSI Miami and other ‘cop lite’ dramas, or maybe one of Christina Dodd’s books Fortune Hunter series, with a less romance.

I thought Mackenzie Lyons was not well defined at all. That she has no family I can accept, but no friends to talk to other than her detective partner? That didn’t make sense. How can fairly young adult go days and never speak with/of a friend? Ok, we know she’s driven as a cop because her mother was raped and murdered and the perpetrator never found. Has she lived in a vacuum since then? The second big hurdle for me was Mac, traumatized as a child by a wild animal attack, shows only moderate fear of the wolf G at the Stone mansion on first meeting and by the second one she’s petting him. Later, she treats the whole idea of werewolves with remarkable equanimity and restraint. Way too much to be believable. Mac’s ex-boyfriend now prosecutor Hahn, who fulfills the role of designated shithead of no significance, is the only personal relationship we see in the whole book. Rafe interacts with his brothers so we get a slightly better sense of who and what he is. For a ‘hero’, he’s a little flat, even if he is a rich, alpha werewolf. 🙂  The sex was surprisingly minimal and suitable for TV.  It was better plotted and written than many that make it to print these days.

Lycan Instinct succeeds as a decent, if predictable, straight forward mystery and the pacing is very fast. The world-building is not anywhere near the complexity or depth of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. It was good enough I looked for book 2 and none existed. Since the book is 3 years old, it’s likely this will be one of many unfinished series, which is rather unfortunate. Romance fans will be disappointed. Mystery fans might find this an interesting diversion from the usual.

My Grade: As romantic suspense it was a C-; as a mystery it was a C; as ‘cop lite’ it was C+

Who would enjoy this book: Readers of very light romantic mysteries, like Lois Greiman’s Christy McMullen books, or Christina Dodd’s Fortune Hunter series and fans of CSI Miami with a paranormal twist. The rating would be PG-13.  ebook only at Cobblestone Press.

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