For him, there were only two kinds of people in the world: sinners and criminals. If you were the former, he considered himself your brother and protector. If you were the latter, he considered himself the flawed but relentless instrument of a just and terrible God.
Wow. What a lousy title -- whoever signed off on this hopefully got his or her hand slapped. Though I have to admit, it's one of the more accurate titles I can think of. It tells you exactly what you're going to get.
This book is taut, lean and mean thriller -- a little too-Urban Fantasy-y for a Crime novel, a little too Crime-y for a UF ('tho the two are frequently paired), and probably too Horror-tinged for either.
We open with a crime scene that is disturbing enough to make hardened vets get ill (and woe to the rookies), it appears someone is torturing and then killing people with a longsword! All signs point to a target of a federal manhunt, Dominic Abend, a European gangster who is making inroads in the States. I'm not talking one of Abend's crew, either. I'm talking Abend himself doing the slicing and dicing.
Which gets the federal task force (with a really stupid name that I'm not going to bother to look up), very excited -- this is their chance. Their two most noteworthy members, Martin Goulart and Zach Adams, are hot on the chase.
Martin Goulart walked right off the set of one of the Law & Orders, a stereotypical NYPD Detective in a nice suit. Zach "Cowboy" Adams is basically Woody Harrelson's True Detective character, but with a very strong moral core. They barely start investigating this crime when various distractions set in, dividing the partners -- Goulart is having some personal and professional problems, and Adams is drawn into consultation with a German academic.
This academic insists that Abend is something more than a run-of-the-mill gangster, and will need something more than a run-of-the-mill cop. There's something more to Abend than anyone realizes, and will only be destroyed though the work of a werewolf -- and she's got someone in mind to take up the mantle (and pelt).
And things go from there as you'd expect (plus a few other plotlines I'm leaving for you to read).
Nothing against the lycanthropes of Patricia Briggs, Carrie Vaughn, or Faith Hunter (etc., etc., etc.), but I think I might have gotten too comfortable with the idea of a werewolf, of an intelligent human losing control of their body the instant it stops being human. The description of what the metamorphosis does to body and mind is just fantastic -- really. These creatures are more animal than human, and the change from one to the other is violent. Klavan captures that wonderfully. The rest of his take on werewolves is very interesting and not like anything you've read before -- this one element is enough to justify the read.
Without making him into something more than human, Klavan makes the Cowboy an old-fashioned hero, complete with strong sense of morality. I know in the 21st Century we're supposed to see chinks in the armor of our heroes -- if not out-and-out hypocrisy. This is a pleasant change. Adams isn't perfect, but he's got it in mind. He agonizes over the morality of his actions for the right reason, too -- not to make himself look better or anything, but because he legitimately cares.
The scene where Adams tunes out during a sermon (not something I've ever done, I assure you), starts free associating and puts together a bunch of necessary pieces? That was great. It's the kind of thing I'd like to see more of in Crime Novels, really.
Told with skill, nerve, and polish, Werewolf Cop delivers exactly what it promises -- and maybe a tad more. I couldn't make a steady diet out of books like this, but they'd make a killer occasional snack.