The Frenzy War
Trade Paper, 300 pages, $14.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
Sequels are often letdowns, but that isn’t the case with The Frenzy War. Gregory Lamberson’s follow-up to The Frenzy Way surpasses the first novel in terms of texture, and characterization. Plus, Lamberson’s adroit use of snappy dialogue is even snappier this time around. The peacefully co-existing Wolves are under attack by a group of zealots, so keeping the lid on the secret lycanthrope subculture becomes problematic for law enforcement agencies. Taking place two years after the first book, the action in The Frenzy War comes with no prerequisites: familiarity with prior events or characters isn’t necessary. Lamberson deftly recapitulates, weaving the past and present together through conversations and remembrances.
Tony Mace, the protagonist in both novels, is a NYPD captain relegated to a paper-pushing position on the force. Demoted for not adhering to protocol, Mace gets called back into active duty when grisly killings evoke terror in the city. The murders bear similarities to the case that caused his departmental fall from grace. Complicating the situation is the involvement of the Feds, who are aware of werewolves co-existing in mainstream society. While the different bureaus operate on their respective concerns and politics, Mace and his team ally with the shapeshifters, who can no longer maintain a passive stance. Violent retaliation is graphically illustrated in this passage, where a werewolf gets even with a tormentor: “The woman reached up to claw at Rhonda’s face, but Rhonda snapped her jaws down over her fingers. She felt her teeth chewing through flesh and bone, then felt the fingers floating in the blood pooling on her tongue. The woman pulled her arm back and gasped at what remained of her hand: a thumb and fours stumps for fingers, each spewing blood. Rhonda spat out the fingers in a torrent of blood. Then she seized the woman’s head and unwrapped the bandage around it, like a child unwrapping a holiday present.”
As with The Frenzy Way, there are surprises in The Frenzy War. Startling deaths, and a nifty jolt concerning one of the characters, keep the plot spinning very nicely. While pulling the metaphorical rabbit out of the hat is a neat trick, there’s more than mere verbal razzle-dazzle here. The relationship depicted of Mace and his journalist wife, for example, is complex yet comprehensible. They are a couple whose careers put them at emotional odds: She must be inquisitive; he has to be covert. Their exchanges reflect the inherent tensions, yet the tenderness they feel for each other is also finely established.
Tense relationships are rife in the story, as clans disagree and dissent ripples through social and political hierarchies. Under such turbulence, can a subplot romance between a pair of cute cops survive? Suffice to say, that there is some dandy hanky-panky that violates all kinds of regulations. And the duo, who are professional partners, are quite endearing.
In a genre shout-out, a few of the peripheral personages are named after people who work in the horror fiction field – including book reviewers. It is certainly understandable that an author would fantasize about endangering a reviewer. Fantasies are reputedly good therapy … one hopes.
Gregory Lamberson seems to have had a great time writing The Frenzy War, an engrossing and entertaining read. The next book in the series is awaited with enthusiasm.