Sunday, March 14, 2021

Huntress Moon by Alexandria Sokoloff

First Sentence:  FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can't believe is coincidental.

Waiting for his undercover agent to cross a busy street, Agent Matthew Roarke's attention is captured by a woman standing behind the agent.  Moments later, the agent is dead and the woman has disappeared.  As he tracks the woman, he discovers several deaths at which she was present. Is she that most rare of killers: a female serial killer? She is canny, and always one step ahead leaving bodies behind as Roake begins to piece together her motive and her objective.

What an intriguing book, and one where readers are kept off-guard from start to end. It's also a hard book to review without spoilers. Matthew Roarke is a driven character who we come to know in small bits. He is intuitive, yet logical; a perfect balance for someone in his job. But it's the female character who keeps us going. Initially, we don't know the identity of the killer until the "ah-ha" moment, and the tension builds from there.

Information on the main characters is provided in bits as the story progresses.  It is that information that then provides a motive for their actions.  Damien Epps, Roarke's second, is the breath of fresh air.

That the story is told in days heightens the suspense.  The story alternatives between Roarke and the woman, and it works.  The introduction of a man and his 14-year-old child raises the stakes even higher.  The author has an ability not only to set the scene, but to convey the underlying emotions of it—"He steps through the open doorway, past the carved wooden door, into the entry hall with its white painted brick walls and tiled floor. … The terror has turned every cell in his body to ice; his feet can barely move him forward."  

Just as Sokoloff has not given the investigators anything definite they can track, she leaves the reader directionless.  It is clear the moon has significance, but what is unknown.  However, evil, the sense of it, is a prevalent and effective theme.

As the story progresses, the killer takes on the identity first as "Huntress," and finally her name and background are revealed with a powerful twist.  The author's skill is clear in the killer's progression. I don't recall another author being able to transition one's attitude toward a killer in the way Sokoloff does.

This is not a perfect book. There are some plot holes and weaknesses such as the description of the Tenderloin, which is not nearly as grim as portrayed.  The primary thing which did not ring true is Roarke, an FBI Agent, seemingly surprised by the idea of a female serial killer. He just couldn't be that naïve. Another slight miss was the inference of a supernatural element that was not developed. 

HUNTRESS MOON, the first in the series, is rather the first chapter in one long book with an arching theme: Evil. It is a page-turner and truly a popcorn book in that no one will be able to read just one. If you like the first, chances are you will want to continue.

HUNTRESS MOON (PolProc-Agent Matthew Roarke-WestCoast-Contemp) – VG+
Sokoloff, Alexandria – 1st in series
Thomas & Mercer, Jan 2015, 386 pp

3 comments:

  1. Sometimes it really does work well to have the narration alternate between characters, as it does here. It sounds as though the atmosphere is done quite well here, too, which is always a major plus. Glad you enjoyed this.

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  2. Thanks so much for the great review, LJ! Glad you got caught up in it. :). I do have to argue one point: Roarke is not at all naive about Cara/serial killers - he's 100% right that she is NOT a serial killer. She's a mass killer with a vigilante motivation - completely different psychology. And one of my main reasons for writing the Huntress series is that so few people seem to understand that sexual homicide is almost exclusively a male phenomenon - the handful of women who have killed like that have complex mitigating factors that make them extremely unlike male serial killers like Gacy, Bundy, Ramirez, BTK, the Green River killer, etc. And that is Roarke's point when he continues to way that there are no female serial killers. I didn't make this up - I've done years of research and interviews with FBI agents and behavioral profilers. I think it's critically important to understanding male sexual violence to understand that women DON'T commit this kind of murder.

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    1. Thank you, Alexandra, this is fascinating information and I appreciate it as now his reaction makes sense.

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