Title: Infected: Epitaph
Author: Andrea Speed
Publisher: DSP Publications
Pages/Word Count: 323 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective solving crimes involving other infecteds.
Tiger strain infections start showing up all over Seattle, much to Roan’s dismay, and worse yet, they may have a personal connection. Meanwhile, Roan gets hired to look into the puzzling death of Dee’s former lover. Then the FBI wants him to investigate a new apocalypse cult of infecteds pushing for a violent revolution against normals. All around Roan, events are spiraling out of control. Just when his singular abilities are needed most, Roan develops new symptoms that might signify dire consequences if he doesn’t stop shifting at will. Roan finds himself at a crossroads and must make a difficult decision about his future.
Review: At what point is there nothing left to say about this series and its characters? Was it the point where the author ripped your heart out through your tear ducts? At the point where an ex-whore who’s more than a little bit broken but saner than most of humanity makes your list of “fictional characters I’d most like to have my back?” Maybe it’s when an eclectic bunch of hockey players become family, the wingmen and brothers-in-arms to a guy whose doppelganger happens to be a lion that lives inside his skin. There are very few new ways of expressing how much I love this series, though there are any number reasons I’ve loved the journey. And though I’ll confess some of it has to do with these characters just being my kind of wiseass, a lot of it has to do with the fact that each book allows us to live in Roan McKichan’s version of Seattle, to get under that skin of his and inside his mind with the lion, to laugh and cry and fret and awe at the virus that makes up the ::bad pun warning:: lion’s share of his life and who he is.
One of the many great things about reading any book is the takeaway. If there’s no takeaway from it, then there’s not much point to it. The takeaway is the difference between the book that’s forgettable and the book that will stick with you for a long time to come. The takeaway is the emotional connection the author is able to establish between characters and readers. The takeaway is the investment, not of the financial kind but in the hours we spend with them, feeling as though we’re living their lives alongside them. This installment in the Infected series, according to my Paperwhite, is eight hours and six minutes spent wondering just what the hell sort of Epitaph Andrea Speed planned to treat me to, or torture me with, bracing for the unknown, only to reach the end and wish I had those eight hours back so I could read the book for the first time again. We’ve all probably read Urban Fantasy crafted in a much bigger world than is the Infected series, but what word count isn’t used for world building is aimed at creating complex and believable and completely endearing characters. Even when some of them are being asshats. But that’s just what makes them real.
Roan McKichan is the personification of Chaos Theory—the branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences. Roan’s chaos is the virus, the lion is the great consequence, and his emotions are the changes in condition that mean the difference between life and death for whomever is on the receiving end of the lion’s attention. In breaking with some familiar shifter tropes in the series, Andrea Speed has not glamorized or glorified Roan’s condition—there is no oneness between Roan and the lion, no soul-deep connection. There is no human awareness present when the lion takes over. The virus in Roan’s blood that causes him to shift doesn’t make him immortal or infallible. In fact, the opposite is true. The living virus in the blood is death to the human shell it needs to survive. And if that’s not irony enough… well, there’s plenty more to be found in this series’ pages.
Each of these books consists of a number of cases Roan is either deliberately or circumstantially involved in, giving readers the added bonus of Holden and the hockey boys finding trouble if trouble doesn’t find them first. But the focus is always the lion in the room, how it affects Roan physically, how it informs his relationships and how, no matter how much he lets his inner smartass out to play, the love and loyalty Dylan and his friends feel toward him make the world just a bit more tolerable a place to live in. The strength in the series is the characters and the dialogue and the underlying current of affection (and in some cases, attraction) they feel for Roan. In spite of the hate from the idiots and idealogues, despite the past and because the future holds no guarantees, happiness in the now is the best anyone can hope for—and sometimes only the hope for it has to be enough, but it’ll do.
If you haven’t read this series and love Urban Fantasy with a wicked sense of sarcasm, an irreverent sense of humor, and its finger firmly on the pulse of some of the best and worst humanity has to offer, dig into this one. If you’re already a fan of Roan and company, all Epitaph will do is make you love these guys a little harder, make you want to be with them a little longer, and make you glad Infected: Paris is coming down the pike.
You can buy Infected: Epitaph here: